Tag Archives: This Is Us

When Fiction Reminds Us Of What’s Real

***SPOILER ALERT*** This post discusses a plot line of the television show THIS IS US up through last night’s episode, Memphis.

This is humiliating!

I’ve had television shows and movies make me cry before. Many times. That experience is not even remotely new. But I’ve never had this happen before.

Multiple times now, I have recalled last night’s episode of THIS IS US entitled Memphis and teared up at the mere memory of it. I can’t stop. It’s ridiculous.

I have long stated that I believe the best episode of television I’ve ever seen was the season 5 finale of Lost. Today, I’m not so sure. In fact, I’m almost positive it has been relegated to second place. And why? Because I have never had a television show speak so directly to me and my life experience as last night’s THIS IS US did.

To give a little background in case you blew past the Spoiler Alert because you never plan on watching this show or you are already a fan, the audience is introduced in the first episode of the series to a character who is fighting Stage 4 stomach cancer. He’s introduced into the story when his biological son, who he left on the doorstep of a fire station, tracks him down and berates him for abandoning him. From that first moment you meet him, the character of William Hill becomes a part of you. At least he did for me. (And judging from the on-line reaction to last night’s episode, a good portion of those who watch this show agree with me.) His reaction to being chastised by his son is not defensive. Nor is it dismissive. It is world-weary acceptance that everything his son is saying about him is true. He’s a man with many regrets, but he owns them, and you love him all the more for it, as does his son, who by the end of their first meeting invites him into his home to live with him through his final days.

Well, those final days came to an end last night and it was…exactly what it should have been. If this post were strictly a review of This Is Us, that would be a phrase I would apply to much of this show. It gives a portrayal of life that is exactly what it should be. Good people who aren’t perfect but who are trying. Not for perfection. Just trying. And I love that the show’s creators have taken on so many issues that aren’t necessarily “sexy” per se, but are very real.

And when it comes to this particular story line, it couldn’t be more real. And I think that is why I’m blinking back tears even as I write this sentence. See, there are different types of death. The one you hope for for yourself and for everyone close to you is that of a full life that ends at a time and place that is…acceptable. Yes, death will always be hard, but there are times when it is, for lack of a better word, expected. My grandmother’s passing was one of those experiences and her funeral was a celebration of a good long life well-lived.

But then there are the deaths that feel so incredibly unfair. In my family, we’ve been sucker punched by these kind, not once, but twice. My father-in-law died of a massive heart attack at age 49. And eight years later, my mother lost her battle with cancer at age 59.

And it sucked! Both times! Hard Core!

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. My kids, who come from a rich ranching heritage were supposed to be able to experience working on the ranch with the grandfather. They were supposed to look out and see the unmistakable glint of pride in the eye of a gruff old cowboy every time they experienced one of life’s successes. They were supposed to learn pearls of wisdom from a man who at times appeared rough around the edges, but underneath had truly invaluable pearls of wisdom to impart.

They were supposed to feel the love of a woman who would move heaven and earth to spend time with them. They were supposed to spend weekends away from their parents with a grandma who would play cards with them all night and feed them like royalty all day. They were supposed to learn from the example of a truly driven woman that no challenge is too great.

Instead…they got none of that. Not that I am trying to disparage their two remaining grandparents in any way. They get many wonderful gifts from them. But my heart aches every time I think about what they have missed from the two grandparents who are gone.

And as I watched this heartbreaking episode of television, I was reminded of those things once again. Along with that, I was reminded of something else. All the things I have missed as well.

I am convinced when someone loses a parent too soon, whether that be as a child, as a young adult, or whenever, it breaks a person at least a little bit. I think it broke me.

Yes, I know I am 43 years old, but I don’t care. There are just times when I need my mom. And I just don’t seem quite able to emotionally handle it when she’s not there. Everything made sense and I questioned very little when she was alive. Quite a few things have stopped making sense and I question all kinds of things now that she’s gone. Maybe that makes me a better person, maybe not. I suppose that’s for God to decide. But what I do know is that her absence in my life hurts. It’s been almost 8 years and it still hurts to the point of tears I can’t control.

Which I suppose explains my ridiculous reaction to last night’s episode of a television show. Seeing a man lose his biological father so soon after finding him was unbelievably unfair. And yet, it felt real. Because we all have those experiences that remind us life isn’t fair.

But the other thing that last night’s episode, and basically the show in general, has done for me lately is remind me of a basic truth. It has reminded me of the triviality of so many things we can mistake for important. Donald Trump is not important. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, are not important. Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal, moderate…not important. And stewing about those things incessantly seems today for some reason to be time wasted.

On the other hand, choir concerts are important. Piano recitals are important. Family vacations are beyond important. Monday night dinners with my children are priceless. Each and every kiss willingly placed upon my bald head by a precious three-year-old is a gift from God.

And each and every memory of my mother is a treasure more valuable than gold.

“You need a television show to remind you of that?” I can hear some people ask. Yeah, apparently sometimes I do.

And with that, I’ll bring this meandering post to a close. I don’t know what my point was exactly. Maybe I didn’t particularly have one. But I wanna say this. The Memphis episode of THIS IS US deserves an Emmy. Ron Cephas Jones deserves an Emmy and Sterling K. Brown deserves an Emmy. I don’t want to hear about GAME OF THRONES or STRANGER THINGS or any other show that is supposedly changing television. Maybe they are, but THIS IS US is on another level. It isn’t necessarily changing anything, but it is allowing people to be touched by the emotions that matter most. And if art can do that, then I believe it has transcended the very concept of art itself.

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Incoherent Strings Of Thought

For the last couple of weeks there have been multiple things I have wanted to write about. But for whatever reason I’ve resisted. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say. Heaven knows I could come up with 2,000 words on how much I despise the taste of regular NyQuil, but think that Cherry NyQuil should be made into its own soft drink flavor. It’s just…I don’t know.

Nevertheless, I’ve learned that after a while, I’d better put something down or my head will start to explode. I’m a little like Elaine in the Seinfeld episode where she gets stupider by the minute because she can’t declutter her brain. Admittedly, our avenues of dealing with this problem are very different (I need to write them out, she…does other things) but the end result is the same. After a blog post, I seem to be able to think more clearly.

With that in mind, I will now share multiple random thoughts that have very little in common other than they have been rattling around in my brain as of late. So, read on if you feel like it, agree with what you agree with, disagree with what you disagree with, or if you think this is the most asinine thing you’ve come across in some time, please resume your regularly scheduled activity and try to forget this post ever happened.

  • On-line shopping for Christmas is the best. It’s like everyday is Christmas morning for the whole month. Each time a package comes in the mail you get to open it and check it out for the first time and then you get to watch the person you are giving it to open it on Christmas day. Every gift is like a double gift for you and the receiver. AWESOME!
  • There are definitely some developments that I see as positive, but truth be told, Donald Trump as president still scares the living…whatever out of me. Are we absolutely certain we didn’t just sell our souls to the actual devil just so we could avoid one of his lesser minions?
  • Designated Survivor has captured our family’s attention and is one of our favorite new shows. But I hate to admit that this promising concept is starting to feel like it is taking the lazy approach to story telling. We’re getting more and more major characters making completely irrational decisions that no one in their right mind would ever make and the shocking twists are starting to feel a bit like my drive home. Very predictable and I can see every turn coming from a mile away. Here’s hoping the writers step up their game when the show returns in March.
  • Fantasy Football has succeeded in turning the NFL into the ultimate virtual reality game. Since Peyton Manning retired last season, I haven’t really decided who my new team to root for is going to be. Therefore, my only interest in the NFL has been the players on my FF team and the players I’m playing against week to week. What this has led to is a situation where I don’t know which teams are likely to make the playoffs. Truth be told, I don’t even know which teams win or lose week to week. The crazy thing is, I don’t even care. All I care about are individual player stats. That seems messed up.
  • Fox News has officially jumped the shark and shed any pretense of trying to be a non-biased provider of news. One of the headlines, THAT’S HEADLINE WITH A CAPITAL “H”, on their website this week was about the failure of the movie Miss Sloane. Movies fail all the time, but this was a major headline for Fox because the movie revolved around a pro gun control premise. Therefore, it would seem that if a movie advocating a political opinion opposite of what is considered conservative fails, that is now major news for Fox. To the folks at Fox News, please stop. You’re embarrassing yourself. When a movie costs $14 million to make and fails, that’s not news. Disney’s The Lone Ranger? Now that kind of failure is news. And devastatingly harmful to my Disney shares. Sorry, I digress.
  • My brother who is unabashedly liberal posted on Facebook that he has cancelled his subscription to the New York Times because it is conducting business in such a way that Mr. Trump’s claims of bias are getting harder and harder to deny. I don’t personally read the New York Times on a regular basis, but based on this development within my own family, it would seem Fox is not the only one struggling with how to be a legitimate news source in the post-Trump election world.
  • I’ve only seen three episodes, but so far I would have to say that This Is Us is one of the best written television shows to come along in a while. A tearjerker of a show that works hard to earn every single one of the Kleenexes it destroys each week.
  • I love and support police men and women. These brave individuals put their lives on the line every day as part of their job and they deserve our respect. Having said that, how on earth can we expect to make any headway in our country’s current issues with regard to race when a jury (made up of eleven white people and one black) can’t manage to convict former officer Michael Slager of the murder of Walter Scott. He is on video shooting the man eight times as Mr. Scott attempts to flee in the opposite direction. He was killed by a bullet that entered through his back. I believe we are putting the 99.9% of good cops in further harm’s way by refusing to acknowledge the .1% that we can see with our own eyes. As evidence, I submit the increasing number of fallen officers over the last month. We have a broken system that is leading to an unacceptable number of people being killed on both sides of the equation. The time to listen to everyone involved is now. Black Lives Matter and No More Dead Cops. There, we’ve gotten the slogans out of the way. Can we please sit down now and figure out a solution?
  • A pretty cool side effect of finding it impossible to support either of the presidential candidates in the last election is: Now almost every political joke is funny.
  • Notice I said “almost”. Kanye West getting a sit down with the president-elect during the very busy transition period is not funny.
  • Letting yourself get roped into a riddle challenge on Facebook where if you get said riddle wrong you have to replace your photo with a llama is not intelligent. Thus we can surmise that I am not intelligent.
  • Russian leader Vladamir Putin is a bad guy. Russia is assisting Syria in wide-spread massacre. Time and again, Mitt Romney has been proven right that Russia is our biggest geo-political foe. Having a Secretary of State that is “a friend of Russia” is a bad idea. I hope those GOP senators who are having heart burn about Mr. Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State have enough of a spine to reject him if his ties to Russia prove to be too strong. We need to learn from our own history of the 1930’s. Trying to play nice with people like Mr. Putin only leads to very bad outcomes.
  • How are we not doing more to help the millions of refugees pouring out of Syria? If we’re scared of them because they are Muslim, shame on us. I don’t think God is going to give us a pass on this just because we were concerned one terrorist might accidentally get into our country.
  • I hate that writing a second book is a trillion times harder than writing the first one.
  • I love Christmas. Even though it is absolutely ridiculous how busy we have made ourselves this time of year, it is still the best. The music, the kindness, the anticipation, the focus on others before ourselves, the focus on The Savior. Here’s hoping everyone out there has a very Merry Christmas and an enjoyable holiday season filled with family, friends and the stuff great memories are made of.
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