Monday Morning Wake-Up Call – “Heaven”, I suggest. “Yup.”

Jeff Bridges at 72 wakes early and lingers a while in bed. Since a battle with lymphatic cancer that began two years ago (“When they found a 9in by 12in mass in my stomach”) and a bad case of Covid he contracted on his local chemo ward (“It made the cancer look like a piece of cake”), rising in the mornings has been a struggle for the veteran Hollywood actor. “I really have to drag myself out of bed,” he says. When Bridges is finally up and about, he stretches, he does a daily breathing exercise so intense it leaves him trembling, he makes coffee, he reads. By the time he’s down in the garage of his Santa Barbara home, maybe noodling about on a musical instrument, or painting, he’ll be feeling and behaving more like the Jeff Bridges that movie-goers have come to know: that beautifully unpolished, scruffy-sweet, growly-squeaky figure, irresistible in deathless works that include The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Big Lebowski and True Grit. […]

Bridges pats his chest, a where-was-I gesture. Oh yeah, positivity. “What I learned from that whole experience in hospital was: life is constantly giving us gifts. They may be gifts that we don’t think we want. Who wants cancer? Who wants fucking Covid, man? Well it turns out, I did. Because dealing with your mortality, it makes things more precious. It’s a gift, man, to realise that I’ve got eyes to look at all this beautiful stuff in the world. I can feel the temperature of the day on my skin. I’ve got a wife who loves me, my kids, too, and I can bathe in that love. It’s all a gift.”

Bridges was born to Lloyd and his wife Dorothy at the end of the 1940s, “right after they’d lost a child to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome,” he adds. “Can you imagine? Your one-year-old? But they had me. They got back in the saddle.” He wound up being the middle of three kids, his older brother Beau going on to become a successful film actor, his little sister Cindy an artist. “Our mom loved mothering,” Bridges remembers. “We all got to benefit. She did this thing with her kids called Time. It was an hour every day with each of us, doing whatever we wanted. Pretending to be clowns. Space monsters. You never got the feeling of duty coming from her. She just dug playing.” […]

At one point in our conversation, Bridges tries to recall a younger actor he worked with on the 2013 action- comedy R.I.P.D., only to blank on his name. He snaps his fingers, reaching for it. “I just watched his recent movie, Free Guy.” Ryan Reynolds? I suggest. “Yes!” Bridges exclaims, relieved, troubled as well by the lapse.

“Isn’t that terrible? That’s embarrassing. To forget someone’s name when they’re dear to you It’s awkward. It feels weird to me.” Bridges shakes his head and says: “Memory, man. As I get older I ask my brain for a name, a word, and it says, ‘Are you kidding?’ My brain is flipping me fingers.” I ask about his return to work on his new drama, The Old Man, whether he struggled to remember lines on set. Ian McKellen, a decade older than Bridges, but still in regular work, once told me that actors die twice. The first death comes when they stop being able to memorise their dialogue. “I was pleasantly surprised to find that was not the case on The Old Man,” Bridges says. “Maybe it’s a short-term, long-term memory thing?” […]

Before his mother died, she wrote Bridges a poem in which she described the “honour” of reaching advanced age. I ask him what he thinks she meant by the word. “It’s interesting. New shit comes up constantly as you get older. But it’s not like you’re learning new shit, it’s more like you’re practising how you respond to life. You kind of get to practise what you are.” Bridges continues, “People don’t talk too much about it, but often, in old age? You’ll be going through the things that age offers us – closer proximity to death, a whole different way of dealing with sex, hormonal shifts that make you look at intimacy in a different way – and it almost feels like going through adolescence again. Think of being young. Think of asking a girl out on a first date. Think of how that feels.” Bridges, touching his heart again, issues a high-trembling bleat to express how it feels, as love, terror and hope intermingle. “You have versions of that in old age, too.” […]

At the beginning of our conversation, Bridges talked me through his morning routine, those aching grouchy wake-ups before he stretches and breathes and makes coffee. Now he explains how each day ends for him and Sue. “We sit and we eat dinner in front of the TV. We’re always hooked on some new show or another. Maybe we’re getting tired, maybe I have a wrestle with one of the dogs on the carpet for a bit. I’ll say to Sue, ‘I’m goin’ up.’ And she says to me, ‘OK.’ I get into bed while she does her teeth. She comes in, too. We huddle with our dogs. We go to sleep.”

Heaven, I suggest.

“Yup,” says Bridges, nodding slowly in agreement. “Yup.”

— Tom Lamont, excerpts from “‘Dealing with your mortality, it makes things more precious’: Hollywood legend Jeff Bridges on the gift of life after cancer” (The Guardian, September 18, 2022)

Comments

  1. As if one needed any reason to love this guy more…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Always loved Jeff Bridges, still do!
    He’s also behind my favorite drink from The Big Lebowski, White Russian. It counts as a drink and a dessert at the same time.

    This came in time. I am not sure what reading this today, pushing hard through the last third of Maddie Mortimer’s book, and working with cancer patients is all trying to tell me. But there’s something there. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. His ruminations brought me up short. Been more keenly aware of the passage of time lately, and his musings just made me realize how much more deeply I’ve been affected than I even realized. Finding joy in little moments, recalibrating one’s definition of wants versus needs, valuing the intimacy of simple shared moments. Love his perspective, not to mention awes by his talent. So nice to pause with his observations for a moment. Such a nice counterpoint to the morning news, I have to admit….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As I struggle to come to terms with a progressive illness, these words remind me that love and gratitude are all that matters.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Reading this felt like a punch in the gut, in the best way possible… (If that makes any sense.)

    Like

  6. WMS 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. heaven, indeed…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Suffering has a way to wake us up to a better reality than the one we create! How amazing was his mum? To spend an hour with each of them. Beautiful nurturing. 👏

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Only 72…. Yet he sounds older. Cancer does bring about late blooming. I am happy that he has made it through, yet hope that others see the light a lot younger.
    Interesting and poignant. Thanks DK.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It’s a very weird thing how you think you have so much time…and then you don’t. Time passes quickly, and even more so as we grow older. You do learn how to respond to life differently and you are never able to tell a young person what is coming. You just need to be there to understand.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I already loved his aura. There is something about him. That cancer should find its way to him is not to be understood but he is handling it with grace and wisdom. Time and our perception of it changes with each stage in life, doesn’t it?

    Like

  12. I love this story, about Jeff Bridges, I love him on “old Men” and he has such grace while going through an unfortunate health challenge, which make him see life in a different more fulfilling way. Gratitude and thankfulness are the words that describe how he is feeling. I wish Mr. Bridges a peaceful, and strength in his healing journey.

    Liked by 1 person

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