Hi! Sorry it’s been so long. Obviously, per my recent posts, my life has changed a lot, and I have a lot less time and energy to blog. It’s not that I don’t want to; it’s just that between extremely poor health and other projects, it’s fallen down my list of priorities, unfortunately. I […]
Jack Pearson is a fictional character. He is the patriarch of the Pearson family, the family many of us have let into our living rooms every Tuesday night. For those avid fans, I have to preface this by advising you not read further if you have not seen the episode that aired after the Super Bowl this past Sunday. SPOILER ALERT!!!
I watched the episode and like many, cried tears of grief along with Rebecca when she went to Jack’s hospital room and discovered that he did die from a heart attack brought on by smoke inhalation. Rebecca refused to believe the doctor who stopped her at the vending machine to break the bad news of Jack’s untimely and unexpected passing. Of course, the fans everywhere had been speculating for months about his death, as we had been teased in so many episodes.
Reality aside, I want to talk about the character of Jack Pearson. Why do men and women alike love him so much? Why are millions of Americans sobbing about the death of a fictional character? The obvious answer is that he was relatable. The family is relatable. Blue collar Pittsburghers meet in a bar, fall in love, get pregnant with triplets, lose a baby, gain an African American son (the very same day!), raise children, and deal with life as it’s thrown at them. Jack Pearson, through all of the heartache and all of the family struggles, is steadfast in his love and devotion to his family. He’s a hard worker, he loves and worships his wife, he treats his children with love and respect and best of all, he loves his daughter and constantly reminds her that she is beautiful JUST THE WAY SHE IS. Kate, the daughter, has a weight problem. She is teased by other girls at the pool. Jack loans her his shirt so she can cover up, never once making her feel that she is anything less. He adores his sons Kevin and Randall and never once do you see him raise his voice or lose his patience. He is perfect. He is also the perfect husband, working hard at his job, working around the house, surprising his family with trips and presenting a united front with Rebecca. He is handsome, romantic and always cheerful. The fact that Jack has a drinking problem and is an admitted alcoholic is always tucked away in the series and attempts to show that Saint Jack is not perfect after all. Oh, but I disagree. He goes to AA meetings and readily admits to his ER doctor that he cannot have pain pills because he’s a substance abuser. Jack never sneaks pills. Jack doesn’t look at other women and Jack doesn’t yell at his kids. Jack ultimately saves his entire family and family pet but in doing so, inadvertently took his own life.
Jack is like Jesus. As you see him emerge from the house in flames, you see him carrying the family dog, rising out of the ashes like a phoenix.
We like to see characters we can relate to and there is something to be said for losing yourself in the life of another family for an hour per week. However, we must be careful. I have heard so many women say that they wish their husbands were more like Jack. I have wished that I had a father who was so accepting. My father has personal issues with weight and he passed that on to me. He is not perfect, but he’s my father and he’s all that I have. I love him despite his faults. It is so tempting to compare the reality of our own dysfunctional relationships with the relationships we see created for our consumption on television or in the movies. There is a reason women like to read romance novels and that’s fine. If we women heard our husbands longingly wish that we were more like Rebecca, we’d be rightfully hurt. The same goes for our husbands, our sons, our daughters and our fathers. They are real people with faults. They’re not Jack and Rebecca or Randall, Kevin or Kate. I love the Pearsons, too. There isn’t anything wrong with that. It’s when I start to feel sad for my own father daughter relationship that I need to question my own reality and accept it for what is in, warts and all.
I knocked on the door of every church here in town
to find me some guidance and hope and for grace
some doors opened widely and many faces appeared
with friendly fake smiles like they’re all coached to do
and offer me T shirts and mugs full of brew
some doors were opened more slowly than those
and said nothing to me as the welcome bells chimed
finding a seat in the back on the hard wooden pew
to shake hands with some strangers and sing some old songs
then quietly slipping out the front door with no words
left alone to wonder alone why the old church seems cold
but the megachurch people want to be your best friend
it’s hard to keep searching, this quest for a place
that respects your own space and Jesus is love, not hate
I am 53 years old. Over the past couple of years, many of my childhood icons have been dying. Some are dying natural deaths due to old age and/or incurable disease, but some have died tragically. This past year, the deaths of many “celebrities” have forced me to come to terms with my own mortality and it’s not pretty.
As far as I know, I have pretty decent health. I only take one prescription medication and that’s a low dose blood pressure pill. I have gone off my Wellbutrin which was prescribed for ADHD. I am, by nature, a morbid person. I think about death a lot. I think about my own death, how and when it will happen. I think about the deaths of others, especially those who die tragically “before their time.”
My husband was recently very affected by the death of one of his favorites, David Bowie. David was 70 years old and had cancer. He kept his illness private, so many of us were shocked when he died, including me. That happened at the end of 2016. This year, we have lost Chester Bennington, Chris Cornell, Mary Tyler Moore, Gregg Allman, David Cassidy, Tom Petty, Malcolm Young, Walter Becker and many more. Tom Petty hit me very hard. I am a huge fan of his and always thought one day I would love to see him and The Heartbreakers play live. I have said that often about musical groups such as Steve Miller, another one of my favorites. Well, Steve is getting up there in age and who knows when he will go? Who knows when any of us will go?
Many of the stars who have passed that I didn’t mention were around the same age as my parents. I am lucky to still have both of my parents, but they are not young anymore. Many people might read this and think that I am naive or in denial about the aging process, death, etc. I’m not. It just takes something drastic sometimes to really bring it into the light. Or dark, if you will.
I was chatting with my best friend on Sunday. She and I have been friends for 35 years and we have seen each other through marriage(s), children, jobs, divorce, illness and death. When we met she was a young bride going back to college to finish her degree while working part time. I was a young college kid, fresh out of high school who wanted to party all day and night in order to forget my feelings. I was on the cusp of adulthood and I wasn’t ready. My family was ripped apart when my brother joined the Army. I didn’t have career plans. I wanted out of my parents’ house and I was determined to do that, no matter what. 4 years later she was my maid of honor at my wedding to a man who was never right for me.
She and I were each other’s lifelines during the lonely and turbulent years when our children were small. We talked on the phone daily and went on outings with and without our children. On the surface, both of our lives looked idyllic, but neither were and that was one of our strong bonds. When you are a young mother and you’re surrounded by everyone else’s perfectly clean and perfectly behaved children and your own clothes came from the thrift store, you tend to wonder what you are doing wrong. Remember, this was the 90’s. Parenting magazines focused on childhood milestones and ways to help yourself stay organized. The show “American Housewife,” which depicts a mother who wears flannel shirts and curses like a sailor, wasn’t even a thing yet. You weren’t accepted into the Mommy crowd if you were an Earth mother (I was) or if you dared to raise your voice to your children within earshot of others (like my friend did.)
Fast forward to the present. I am divorced and remarried. She has resigned herself to staying with her husband even though it’s a very unsatisfying marriage. Her two oldest children are doing well in life and so is my oldest. Our youngest children are both special needs and are “getting by,” but they continue to be a source of worry and emotional stress for us. We are still not a part of the Mommy/Grandmother crowd and may never be. My friend said that she visits the Facebook page of a mutual friend of ours and “gets ill” from seeing all of her perfect posts with her perfect husband, children and grandchildren. I get it. We always wanted the perfect life. I tried like hell to make the perfect life with my ex-husband. He wasn’t perfect material and neither are my children. You might be saying, “well, nobody’s perfect!” That is true, but some are closer than others. Some marriages are better. Some people did everything right and their children ended up in trouble. Or on drugs. Or worse. Some people’s families are close and some aren’t. My friend and I still don’t have the careers we longed for. Money is a worry in our lives. Many of our friends are already retired and living very well. We hope that someday that is us.
My friend said that she has realized she has a “not perfect life” and probably always will. I am right there with her.
There have been so many blogs, opinion pieces, etc. about the poor rural whites who voted for Donald Trump. Why did they vote for someone so unlike themselves? Did they really think a rich, white New Yorker could do anything for them or did they just detest Hillary Clinton that much? The answer is a complicated one, even for social scientists. There are people who dedicate their lives to studying groups of people and there are those who have lived the life and have their own opinions, e.g., Hillbilly Elegy. A lot of attention has been given to this group and rightly so, given the outsome of the last election.
I have made some observations lately and while they probably don’t come as a shock to anyone, I just want to talk about some of them, perhaps get some comments on your own experiences and maybe a layperson’s view of the subject. Much has changed in the years since I was a child. A lot of people say that the world is a better place and I suppose in some ways, it is. A lot of social issues are more understood now and people who are different don’t have as much fear about their differences. For example, when I was in high school, I didn’t know anyone who came out as gay, though it was suspected. Now there are LGBT support groups in high school. One way that things are better. Women now have more positions of power and more opportunities than they had in the 60’s and 70’s, with thanks to the pioneers who came before me. Of course, during the 60’s, civil rights became law. I have heard people say that crime is no worse now than it was then, it’s just more publicized now. I haven’t done the research, so I can’t refute that.
Today I heard a story on the news of a 13 year old shot dead in what appeared to be a middle-class suburban neighborhood just outside of Baltimore. I know quite a bit about the area and I have friends who live close to where this occured. I researched the history of the area and discovered that it used to be a fine place to live and raise a family, but now it is crime-ridden. The schools are mostly Title 1 and a lot of the housing is Section 8. What happens to a neighborhood to turn it “bad” in a generation or two? Much of the same problems that have afflicted the rural poor also have caused good areas in a city to become undesirable. Lack of good paying jobs (jobs going overseas), drugs, and gentrification (in the city) have contributed to the problem. There is something else that is a little more controversial and that is white flight. Historically, whites on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum have had different outcomes than blacks on the same spectrum and of course, we all know that institutional racism has a lot to do with that. Poor people who are hopeless about their futures cope in all sorts of ways, some not so good (drugs, gangs, etc.) As I see it, the “ghettos” of the big cities are increasing in circumference, affecting suburban areas, bringing its crime, failing schools, drugs and everything else that makes those looking for a home keep searching.
My first home was a single family, very small home on a back road off of a main road in a suburb of Baltimore. My particular street was not usually affected by crime and the schools at the time (late 80’s, early 90’s) were considered pretty good, but not great. My oldest son attended the local elementary school and middle school and seemed to do well. By the time my youngest got to elementary school four years later, he was a minority in his class, whereas my oldest had many white, middle-class classmates in elementary school. The school’s reputation started to decline. The school doors remained locked during the day. Many white families moved. Now, 20 years later, the test scores are abysmal and its ranking out of Maryland elementary schools is in the bottom 5%. (By the way, this is not meant to be a racist rant, it is merely observation) Even in the planned city of Columbia, MD, where James Rouse’s vision was that all races and socioeconomic classes live nearby each other in “villages”, things have changed for the worse. The least expensive neighborhoods are still unaffordable for many and for those who can afford to live there, crime is a growing concern and the once very good schools are now producing low test scores and there are many more children in poverty. The families who fled our former elementary school 15 years ago probably find themselves in a similar situation now. I know for a fact that one family moved to an area that used to be a low-crime area but now is not.
What is happening to our country? The government can’t create family cohesiveness. As more and more families break down and (yes, I’ll say it) women continue to bear children that they are ill equipped to care for, things are only going to get worse. In my solidly middle class but aging neighborhood, crime is starting to become problematic. Many neighborhoods such as mine, with their 60’s and 70’s era homes and aging populations aren’t attractive to young professionals with children Those who can afford to do so move to bigger homes, farther away from the perceived problem areas. This is a distinctly different pattern than the way things used to be. Many of my peers grew up in small homes. A lot of mothers stayed home during the day and could comfortably afford to do so.
I may be pining for a simpler time, but I don’t believe that any hard working American should have to live in unsafe conditions. If you are working full time, you should be able to provide for a family. I could go on a tangent now about the rising costs of healthcare, funding for education and raising the minimum wage, but that’s a rant for another day. In the meantime, I hope I haven’t offended too many with this post. These are merely observations, not judgement calls or victim blaming.
This is on display here in my hometown. There is chalk available and people write in what they wish to do or accomplish before they do. It was interesting to read the wall. Some of the responses were heart breaking, some thought provoking and some just plain silly. Someone had written in F U C K, but someone else came along and changed the F to an R. Just doesn’t have the same meaning, does it? Changing it to a B might have made more sense, I don’t know.
I haven’t really thought about my bucket list, because that tends to depress me, leading me to regrets about things I have not done, rather than focusing on the fact that life is short and opportunities should not be wasted. I didn’t graduate from college. Not even community college. I attended long enough that I should have graduated, but I didn’t. My early adulthood was a hot mess. Depression, anxiety, family struggles and abandonment issues prevented me from making good decisions. So, yes, graduating from college is something I would write on the “Before I Die” wall. There are so many things I could say, but many of them involve other people involved like “have grandchildren” or “move back to my home state.” I would like to travel to Canada or California, at the very least. I would very much like to see more of this country, especially the west coast and northern states. My “before I die” list is pretty simple. Learn some crafts, go to school, do a little traveling. I am already pretty blessed with the life I have. I try not to take anything for granted.
What would you write on the wall?