Searching For Some Sort Of Normalcy At Toy Fair

Mike Ryan/Hasbro

It’s about three-fourths of the way through the presentation on new Transformers toys when I ask the nice woman – who obviously had given this same presentation countless times over the last few days – about what, at least I think, is a neat-looking Optimus Prime toy. “Hey. So what about this? Now this is really cool.” Almost out of breath, looking defeated, the woman replies, “That’s a decoration.” The presentation ends.

I have been assigned a designated tour guide, who is very nice, for a personal tour of Hasbro’s new toy line at this year’s New York City Toy Fair, whose job it is to take me around from station to station so I can hear presentations while he writes down notes based on my reactions. He writes a long note after I told the Transformers presenter that the thing I like most was a decoration. Later, at the Star Wars booth, I marvel over the display stands that help pose their Black Series line for the new Han Solo movie, to which I hear a disappointed, “Yeah, we don’t make those,” followed by another note. (By the end, the notes start to feel like that episode of Seinfeld in which Elaine can’t get a doctor’s appointment because of the notes claiming that she’s “difficult” in her chart. I have a feeling I’m being “difficult.”)

I tell my guide that I feel bad about the whole Transformers thing. He says it’s fine but I’m not sure I believe him. I want to say more. I want to tell him that simple human interactions haven’t been my strong suit since my father died without warning three months ago and that I’m trying my best. I wanted to tell him I haven’t been myself. Or, maybe more accurately, I am a truer version of myself that no longer knows how to at least pretend to function properly. But I didn’t because could you imagine telling this to a stranger? “Hey, ready to see some toys?” “Sure, but along the way, maybe after the Nerf display, I’d like to tell you how depressed I’ve been since my father died.”

Here’s a picture of a Chewbacca toy called “Star Wars Ultimate Co-Pilot Chewie.” He responds to verbal commands and, when you put him on his back, he will go to sleep and snore.

Mike Ryan/Hasbro

People told me “the firsts” would be the most difficult. Those people were correct. As I write this, early on a Wednesday morning, it is, or was, my father’s birthday. (If there were any chance I was going to forget, that would have been squashed by the, so far, three reminders I’ve been sent so far by my well-meaning computer and handheld devices.) I always remembered his age because, on his birthday, he was always 30 years older than me. And now he’s not. It’s now a number that will get smaller every year. And this is a big reason I went to Toy Fair this week, in an effort to do things that I at least used to enjoy. To find some sort of normalcy in a world I haven’t been enjoying much anymore. Or, at least, the concept of “looking forward to something” is now foreign to me.

I don’t really look forward to anything, so the best I can do is try to schedule myself into things that I at least used to look forward to doing. But listening to the presentations, it all just whooshed past me. I know I used to like this kind of thing, but now I just find myself not knowing how to react. I suspect it will come back someday. Hopefully soon. But right now I just feel like a walking shell of what I used to be and the easiest thing to do is to just not go to anything. I’ve been doing that a lot. But that’s why I wanted to go to Toy Fair. I like toys. It will be good for me.

Here’s a picture of a new Lando Calrissian Black Series action figure from the new Han Solo movie.

Mike Ryan/Hasbro

I have dreams about my father pretty much every night, to the point I dread going to sleep because I know I will wake up sad. There was one from last week in which he tried to call me, but the connection was bad. But I was sure he’d try to call back and I was happy to learn that, wherever he is, he still had access to Apple products. I’ve been told I should maybe seek counseling (including my editor, Keith, who is reading this right now thinking, I thought this was supposed to be a report about Toy Fair?) But I’ve balked at that because I don’t need a therapist to tell me I haven’t had closure. I don’t have much of a family. I don’t have siblings. There wasn’t a funeral. He doesn’t even have a grave to visit.

It’s the strangest thing: I was given this news in late November and it was more like an “FYI.” I didn’t need to do anything or go anywhere. I still haven’t been back to Missouri. I think about going back a lot – maybe going to our old house where I grew up. (This seems both like a great idea and a terrible idea.) But I suspect I won’t find what I’m looking for. I suspect the only thing that will really help is time. And, as you’ve probably noticed because of the world and the American president, time goes by really slowly these days. And, while waiting for time to pass, I’m going through the motions, pretending to care about the things I used to care about.

Here’s a picture of an action figure depicting Spider-Man playing guitar. I like his shoes.

Mike Ryan/Hasbro

Friends, understandably, move on. In a world where news cycles come and go so quickly that time almost stands still, no one wants to hear that you’re still sad about something that happened three months ago. And, honestly, there are only so many, “Yeah, I get it, I lost a grandparent last year,” conversations I can have. I know people mean well, but I try to explain it’s not quite the same thing and, well, as a friend who lost his dad a couple of years ago put it in a text message, “They will all find out the hard way.” (This particular friend has a dark side to him.) Honestly, the only people who seem to get it at all are people who have gone through this or are still going through it. But, even then, there’s the morbid difference between “sudden” and “long,” which seem to be much different experiences. I haven’t met many other “suddens.”

But, unfortunately, the human brain doesn’t work like a news cycle and mine is still reeling from losing the most important and complicated relationship I ever had in my life. I think a lot about the idea of having a child, but now my dad won’t be there. They will never meet. He’s already a ghost. And all I can really do in the meantime is force myself to go to something nice like Toy Fair, as opposed to just not getting out of bed at all.

Here’s the new action figure of our new Han Solo. I like that the red stripe is back on his pants. In The Force Awakens, I wish Han’s pants had a cool stripe. Well, the stripe is back.

Mike Ryan/Hasbro

Hopefully, every time I do attend some kind of event like Toy Fair, maybe it does slowly recondition me to care about normal things again. I just want to look forward to something again. It’s almost like I’m not allowed to be happy. When I feel any kind of joy, it’s like my brain will say “Oh yeah, well remember this,” and it goes away. Since my dad died, I’ve probably been drunk more nights than not, in some self-medicating sort of way, but even that is boring now. I just feel empty. (I did look forward to Sundance in some sort of, “If I can make it to Sundance everything will be okay,” kind of way, but then I got back and things seemed worse.)

I see people on Twitter in my profession argue about movies – an endless, non-stop argument that keeps on swirling like, and has lasted longer than, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot – and I miss caring enough to join in. That the most important thing I could think about at that given moment is to defend my take on The Commuter. But, in the meantime, here I am, fumbling my way through Toy Fair, asking questions about decorations and display stands – probably getting labeled as “difficult” on my forever “Toy Fair chart” that will undoubtedly follow me the rest of my life. But I’m glad I came. I’m out of the apartment. I’m just trying my best.

Here is a picture of some Porgs! You will get two in one package.

Mike Ryan/Hasbro

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