“Glee” has been one of my guilty pleasures for the last few years. It’s a time machine. I went to a sports-obsessed school in Ohio, and I was a misfit. My close friends were rarely in the ‘in’ crowd. They weren’t cheerleaders or football players, and, my gay friends came of age in an atmosphere that was even more homophobic than the one faced by Kurt, one of the main characters who comes out in the first season.
The story reminded me of high school, but I never identified with any of the characters on the show. I didn’t even identify with the parents who are my own age. That changed last night.
Last night Glee memorialized Finn, the character played by Cory Monteith, who died from a drug over dose during the summer. Naturally, I didn’t know Monteith personally, and ‘Finn’ is a fictional character, so at the time the actor’s death was announced, I wasn’t (as many seemed to be) grief-stricken. I was sad, however. I am always sad when I think of a life ended prematurely and needlessly.
I did think about the character of Finn and how they would write this event into the show. I wondered if they would take this moment to shine a light on the plague of addiction that destroys so many young lives. Then I wondered how they would write about the character’s mother.
Finn’s mother – a widow – has appeared occasionally throughout the show, and the writers have always made clear that the relationship was strong and close. Now deprived of her only biological son, Finn’s mother, Carol, was only on screen for a few minutes of last night’s show, but it was in those few minutes – as Carol described the fear that every parent pushes to the back of their mind that I identified for the first time with any of the characters.
None of us who have not faced the loss of a child can really know what it’s like to get that phone call. As parents we all live with the knowledge that it could happen and the question of how we might go on if it did, but, as Carol says, “we push it to the back of our minds because it’s too terrible to contemplate.”
For me, the last eighteen months have been about living fully and authentically. They have been about living without fear. When Carol cried, I cried, thinking about the real parents we’ve known and read about who have had to face that fear.
Now, though, as I look across the kitchen table at my lanky Jack, home on a sick day, it’s not the fear of things too terrible to contemplate that helps me push the possibility of losing either of my kids to the back of my mind. It’s the determination not to let that fear keep me from appreciating every moment I do have with them and their Dad.