Sometimes there is powerful stuff (to quote the Fabulous Thunderbirds) out there that you can’t avoid. I can avoid what I can’t see coming. It’s the stuff I didn’t know was out there that get to me.
There are a few things that I must admit, even though we enjoyed them as a family, I was able to retain possession. I lost several of my favorite Clapton songs. “Wonderful Tonight” I simply cannot hear on the radio, television or even Muzak. Our first dance, first kiss, wedding dance, all were to that song. Cannot hear it without losing it. “Layla” kills me, though I’m at a point where I can finally listen to it. I don’t watch any of the vampire shows she loved so much. I can’t see many of the dramas. I don’t order from one particular pizza chain . . . they’re things I simply have to avoid because they’re parts of my life she stole away when she left.
But I retained one particular television show, a Sci-Fi program decades old and my favorite as a kid. She hated the ’60s-’70s version for its bad special effects and liked the new one but didn’t make it a point to watch it every week.
Yes. I’m a geek, a troubled, self-conscious, certified hard and fast Whovian. I love the TV show Doctor Who. (For the hardcore fans, you’ll notice I didn’t use Dr. I spelled it out) I mean, as a kid, I was obsessed. I had the giant scarf, the rumpled brown hat, just needed the curls and the teeth. When they re-booted the show I was aghast and enamored at the same time. The special effects had reached modern day and the writing was brilliant. I had to convince my wife to watch with the kids because she actually had full disdain for the program.
This isn’t a commercial for the show, bear with me, there’s a point.
The writer and executive producer of the current incarnation is brilliant. But I didn’t know how brilliant. Some people just get it, if you know what I mean. My situation is certainly one where people don’t really understand and it seems easy to just say you’re sorry and that things will be OK. By the way, telling someone like me that I shouldn’t worry, it’s all for the best, there’s a plan, a foretelling or a future that I just don’t know about . . . worst possible thing to tell me. Why? Because I hate the idea there’s a “plan” that involved me marrying an amazing woman only to lose her when I needed her most. Screw the plan! What happened to my free will in all this?!
But back to Who. I love the show and my kids love it, too, which makes me happy. My oldest . . . well, she doesn’t. Or perhaps she does but doesn’t want the cool people to know that she does because, in England it’s the highest rated program and here it’s a cult hit. I can watch it, possibly because it changes so much from year to year or episode to episode.
Every Christmas they put on a spectacle that’s over an hour long and involves some sort of catastrophe. We wanted so desperately to watch it on Christmas day but time, relatives and reality just got in our way. We ended up waiting until last night.
It’s the only time I’ve walked out in the middle of an episode.
Understand, it wasn’t that the episode was terrible, it was great. But it’s called “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe.” A woman loses her husband to WWII at the beginning of the picture. Midway through they’re visiting an old manor house to get away from the bombing and she hasn’t told her children that their father isn’t coming home. She yells at them at a particular moment in the episode and says she doesn’t know why. She doesn’t want Christmas to be forever known as the day their father was taken away.
“They’re just so happy and . . . ”
“. . . and you know once you tell them they’ll never be happy like this again.”
Or words to that effect.
The writer producer, Steven Moffat, in one phrase didn’t just twist, he wrenched the knife in my heart. Without speaking or writing those words myself, the program had hit the point perfectly. Not only was I the bearer of bad news, I was the harbinger of disappointment. On March 26th I walked in and even though there was no choice in the matter, I was ripping a large part of their innocence away. I knew that every bit of happiness from this point on would be touched with a shadow. A spot of regret and misery that would filter into everything. It would dim, for sure, and maybe disappear occasionally, but don’t you believe it goes away for good. The shadow stays forever and I knew that the moment I walked in and said I had to tell them all something that the shadow would start to grow.
It’s back to something I’ve said many times before. The big things like Christmas Day, birthdays, holidays, songs, all those things we know will hit us. It’s the stuff from out in left field, the line in our favorite show or the picture or the worst thing – smells – that throw me into a tizzy. You just never know what’s going to hit you.
I walked out into the hallway until I could pull myself together. The kids didn’t know anything, how could they? They weren’t the ones who had to tell someone their Mom wasn’t coming home. If the writers and producer of that program haven’t suffered this kind of loss I don’t know how to explain their getting it so beautifully right! It’s a sci-fi show, an effects laden extravaganza with an impossible plot and improbable ideas. It’s why I love it so much.
I don’t pretend to be able to cope. I can’t go back and un-watch a show any more than I can go back and stop Andrea from dying. I can see these things for what they are, and that’s getting something the way it really is, getting it right. For every post I put here, shows like this who tell people what that sadness really is, not a simplistic tragedy that can be whitewashed with platitudes but a powerful thing that can have an impact on our whole future.
I don’t hide those emotions, I hide those tears. It’s OK for my kids to know they can feel these things and deal with them. But they also need to know their father is strong enough to shoulder their burdens, even if it’s just so much smoke and mirrors as the sci-fi show they’re watching. At least they know, they have someone who can help them.
There’s someone who can help them deal with the powerful stuff.