For many, the loss of a parent is an unimaginable pain that we have yet to face. But for some, it’s a reality that has come way too soon Nearly a year ago, my friend Olivia Montgomery lost her father to glioblastoma multiforme, a rare form of brain cancer. She sat down with me to discuss the hurdles of overcoming the death of her dearly beloved dad, Monty.
Sara: Sadly, I never met your father. But I have always loved hearing about him through you and your family. Can you describe him for our reders?
Olivia: This is the one question that I always struggle to answer because there is no way to describe him in just a few words. No matter how hard I try, I don’t think I could ever put into words how absolutely and entirely special my dad was—and not just to me, but to every person he met.
I’ve come to the realization that every person who met my dad developed a bond with him that was so unique; not one bond was ever the exact same. He had this habit, for lack of a better word, of treasuring every relationship he formed with somebody so much to the point that you always felt as if you were the most important person in his life. He did this with every person he met, and I’ll tell you right now that at his memorial there had to be over 500 people there. And each of them felt a bond with him that was irreplaceable and so unique from any other.
He was magic really. Able to walk to into any room and immediately lighten the mood, turn all eyes on him because everybody merely wanted to hear him talk. He was infectious, but in the best kind of way. The way that made every person around want to meet him, be just like him, or turn to him for advice on marriage, raising children, or daily struggles. The way that caused each and every person to look at him with eyes full of love and admiration. The way that made me always proud to idolize him. He was so filled with humor, compassion, joy, strength, love, and intelligence, and even after his diagnosis none of this changed. Even after he underwent brain surgery, he came out just as funny, just as caring, and never once in his battle did he complain.
Can I describe my father? Yes. Will it ever truly capture how truly exceptional, marvelous, magical, and remarkable of a person he was? No. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do him justice in any of the words I try to collect. He was one of those people that only comes around once in a lifetime. He was one of a kind. A blessing.
Tell me about your favorite memories of him.
I don’t think I can even think clearly enough to decipher some of the best memories with him because there are so many. He was there at every single important part of my life, and even in the most mundane of times he was right there. I guess if it really comes down to it, my favorite memories of him are merely the times when he was my dad, when he stood by and supported me through every decision I made and was there when they came crashing down around me. The simple presence of him when I needed him most and the ease I felt when I talked to him about everything. When he took me and Hannah (my older sister) to Comic Con and we drove into LA after to do a studio tour and showed us his favorite places. Movie premieres and the discussions that followed them, and the countless times he brushed up my knowledge of superheroes and informed me of each and every character imaginable.
My first theater performance that he taped and photographed the entire time. When he took me to Rasputin Music for the first time or trips to San Francisco and all his favorite places up there. Attending Dodgers games regardless of the glares, and proudly repping them through our hats while walking around San Jose. Halloween parties and the endless amount of time he spent on the karaoke machine serenading everybody in the room. Camping and his voice which could be heard from five camp sites over, regardless of how late it was. The bands he introduced us to and the disgustingly addicting reality television shows we would watch every night year-round. His sugar cereal that was stacked up in the cupboard and we were only allowed to eat if we asked him first and the giant bowls he would pour before sitting down to take over the television. The Little Rascals, The Brady Bunch, Leave it to Beaver, The Munsters: all the shows he would put on in order to better educate us on the “right” way to watch TV. The Christmases that were videotaped every year, his voice so distinct when looking back on them. The birthday parties and road trips and, God, I have missed so much but it would take hours to list. Every memory I can come up with is my favorite memory, I don’t think I could pick if I were forced to do so.
When you first became aware of the possibility of losing him, what went through your mind?
I honestly don’t think the possibility ever crossed my mind until the week leading up to his passing. When he was first diagnosed, I was nearly 300 miles away and throwing clothes into a tiny suitcase in order to fly home the next day. I don’t remember the thought ever crossing my mind really, the idea of losing him seemed so ludicrous because the idea of cancer was so foreign to me at the time. I had heard of it in the media and in passing, but it had never taken a direct shot at me until this moment. I don’t think anybody wants to accept this kind of possibility—losing somebody you love—so it gets locked up in the back of your subconscious, really. It almost feels like some kind of sick joke, but I wake up the next day and he isn’t in the living room with The Price is Right music filling the house. Essentially, I don’t think I was ever able to accept such a possibility, so I don’t think I really was able to formulate exactly what went through my mind other than, “tomorrow, Daddy will wake up and be cured.”
You mentioned to me that your father was initially the reason you wanted to get into film. How did that start?
I think it was the passion that he had for film and acting that just manifested in me the more I grew and the more films I watched and discussed with him. He used to take me to auditions from those little kiosks in the mall (which I will tell you now are just scams to get you to spend 20k on an acting school in New York), and we would wait for hours upon hours in a little waiting room only for me to freeze up the second I got in front of the camera. But he kept taking me when I wanted to do it, and he would be just as nervous as I was really. I can remember him bouncing up and down in his seat and reading the lines with me, feeding me words of encouragement and excitement. Even though the whole thing would always be a joke, I think it really became when I bonded with him over this love. It was when I decided that this was what I wanted to do, and I wanted to make him proud of it because he loved it just as much as I did.
I could talk for hours with him about films, and man, there are so many we watched together and so many we were supposed to watch together, and even more than he wanted to show me from his movie collection. To this day though, it was when he showed me Paper Moon that I knew that was what I wanted to do, and to this day, I still imagine that it was me and him as the daddy-daughter duo, not Ryan and Tatum O’Neal. I have him and this movie to thank for the passion I have for both acting and film in general.
He was supposed to be my date to the Oscars someday, even though every Oscars viewing we had erupted in an argument with my mom over who I would take first. It was going to be him regardless—how else was I supposed to thank him for filling my soul with such a passion for this art? I couldn’t wait to have him on my arm and be able to introduce him as the man that made this happen for me. His love and passion for film was what instilled in me my own love and passion for it.
You and your family went through a huge tragedy that I can’t even imagine. Did that open your eyes in any sense?
Definitely, and I think with every tragedy there is something from it that helps you grow as a person. I would never wish something like this upon anybody, but I am a firm believer in finding a way to be optimistic in situations that can take somebody and twist them in the worst of ways. Before this, I had my entire life planned out in every sense I could think of. I knew what I was doing and I never stopped to think “Maybe this isn’t what I want.” But because of this tragedy I had to reevaluate. I no longer knew what I was doing when the next year rolled around. Now, I’m changing my major, going to a different school, and taking more time to appreciate what is around me rather than look at the straight and narrow road I had planned ahead of me. I think it takes such a shake to make you realize that you cannot plan your life out entirely and expect it to go that way, and maybe that is for the best. I can confidently say I like the path I’m going now more than I did a year ago.
I think it also helped me realize that if I am not optimistic, then what do I have? If you don’t find a way to look at the positive aspects in your life, you’ll only bring yourself down and make the day by day trek into healing from such a tragedy even harder. It shook our whole world, but it made me realize how much time I was wasting on the negative pieces in my life instead of holding out for hope. In something like this, all you have to rely on is hope and positivity and I think people forget about both of those so easily until they realize it is all they have to rely on.
Feature image courtesy of elitedaily.com