THIS IS US
“The Big Day” – S1/E12
It’s wildly disconcerting that every single week this show journeys to a crazily deep emotional place within me and then dances on my heartstrings. Sometimes does a slow, graceful waltz… Other times it breaks out the low salt Tostito chips and does the salsa… This week we danced to Stevie Wonder. That’s right – the very pregnant-with-triplets Rebecca danced to Stevie Wonder… All must be well in the world, no?
This episode took us back to the day the triplets were born. If you crinkle your forehead and squint your eyes you might remember some of the backstory that was outlined during the pilot episode – This week the writers artistically colored in the original drawing in really unexpected ways.
We were treated to several scenes featuring Fireman Joe and his wife, Samantha, who have grown apart. Joe seems to believe it’s because they weren’t able to have kids… Infertility can cause so much pain to a couple who wants to have kids. Back then, knowledge and access to fertility drugs and other types of solutions were almost non-existent.
In fact, couples who sought to adopt babies through formal agencies were often placed on long waiting lists and vetting was next to impossible since the availability of babies to adopt was scarce. I know my parents had to wait about 4 years to adopt me.
The ache of feeling that something was missing in their life propelled Fireman Joe to ask his priest, Father Williams, to pray “for a little miracle” to save his marriage. Later that very day, after he happened to respond to the doorbell buzzer, Fireman Joe thought he found his “miracle” who had been abandoned on the steps of his fire station.
Learning that the baby would likely face a life of living in the foster care system if not adopted – Fireman Joe decided to take the tiny bundle of joy home to show his wife this miraculous answer to prayer.
Samantha completely took him by surprise when she responded, “That’s just some child that was left by some terrible person.” She told him the baby belonged in a hospital… So now we can rewind to that iconic scene in the pilot… You know the one when Fireman Joe tells a highly distraught Jack (who had just received news that only 2 of their 3 babies had survived childbirth) about the abandoned baby as they’re looking at all the newborn babies in the hospital through the gigantic nursery window…
I must admit that Samantha’s “terrible person” concept really stopped me dead in my tracks. Are biological parents “terrible” when they recognize their own inability to provide the kind life they hope their baby to have? Are biological parents “terrible” when they instinctively thrust their baby into the arms of the baby’s best hope for a thriving life?
I know that some people believe that it would have been better for these babies never to have been born – That the biological mother could have just aborted the baby if she was not going to be able to take care of it. I disagree for purely personal reasons. Let me be clear – I am adamant that women should have the absolute right to choose what to do about everything concerning their bodies – And that if legislation does anything – it should ensure she can do it in the safest manner possible…
However, for purely selfish and obviously personal reasons, I’d like to hope a woman would consider the option of giving the baby a chance to live. It’s the chance my own biological mother gave me – though it would have been likely easier for her to do otherwise. I’m eternally grateful she chose life.
For too many, even placement into the flawed foster care system is a billion times better than the life to which the baby would have otherwise been subjected. I have no idea of the circumstances behind my own adoption, but I have always maintained that it took a lot of love to carry me around in a belly for 9 months and then give me away instead of selfishly trying to raise me in a not-so-great situation.
While it would be easy to cast Samantha as a villain for not welcoming the baby into their lives, she sagely says, “Joe, a baby is not gonna just fix us.” Too many people believe that having children is the only thing that will fulfill or fix their lives. However, most parents quickly find out that if your relationship is not okay before kids – it’s REALLY not gonna be okay after them.
Unfortunately, there are countless perfectly loving couples who feel their lives are somehow deficient because of their inability to have or adopt kids. They WANTED to have children – they even PRAYED they would have children – but it just didn’t work out for various reasons.
For some, the chronic pain in their heart shoots pangs of longing through every nerve ending whenever they see children joyfully playing on a playground… When they hear parents yelling at their misbehaving kids at Target… Or when they have to listen once again as their friends complain about what their kid did this time…
During these especially vulnerable times, their longing heart frenetically but silently screams, “Be thankful you even HAVE kids – Some aren’t so lucky.” Instead they just knowingly nod, empathetically smile, and neatly shelve their pain.
Babies ARE miracles, no? Heck, even at one point, Fireman Joe cuddles the baby in his arms and says, “You’re a little miracle, aren’t you… aren’t you?” – Fireman Joe is right – the baby IS a miracle – it’s just not HIS miracle…
Dr. “K” All The Way
I am SO on Dr. Nathan Katowsky’s (Dr. “K”) team all the way! Gerald McRainey brought such a surprising rawness to his character – it really took my breath away.
We learn that he was married to his wife, Caroline, for 53 years before cancer took her away from him. It’s been 14 months – yet her perfumes are still perfectly in place, her hair accessories are laying on the counter, and even her clothes are still neatly hanging in the closet thus enshrining her ongoing presence in Dr. K’s life. Her wheelchair tells the unspoken story of the tragic decline of a cancer patient and is still prominently sitting next to the bed as if waiting to be used.
Dr. “K” poured granola into a bowl, sat down to breakfast, and held a perfectly lucid conversation with “Carol” as if she never left. As he told her the news of the day, he confessed that he was going to the store to get some “junk” cereal ‘cuz it’s what the grandkids like. He knew she would chide him for it so he hastened to explain, “I’ll be damned if I’ll be the first grandfather in human history to deny his grandchildren.”
He was literally talking to an “empty chair” sitting in its place in front of a brown, oval, quilted placement that hadn’t been used in months. My heart broke for him.
His son, Peter, is worried that his dad hasn’t moved forward with his life. At first, Peter gently nudges his dad to take “someone” to a “flick” sometime (that means to a movie for all of you young whippersnappers). Dr. “K” responded, “My son is about as subtle as an elephant with gas.” I love that – I might hafta use it…lol…
Later, Peter (and his wife) may have overstepped their bounds when Peter honestly expressed that he worried that his dad wasn’t coming to grips that his wife was gone. An incensed Dr. “K” assured his son that yes, he knew his wife was gone – ‘cuz he was the one who buried her. Dr. “K” said, “I will never move on, so stop asking me to.”
Dr. “K” firmly said, “She’s my wife – She was my life.” He tells Peter (and his wife) that if they tell him to move on one more time that they will no longer be welcome in his house. My heart breaks some more.
Later in the episode, Dr. “K” visited his wife’s grave and continued their conversation from breakfast without skipping a beat. Even though he knew she wouldn’t be happy with him about this, he began to confess that he didn’t think he could go on or wanted to go on living without her. It was clear he had already worked out in his mind how he would do it – by using her unused, powerfully strong cancer drugs still prominently occupying space in their medicine cabinet. <Gasp>
This, my friends, is a ginormous red flag.
So when your beloved partner dies, how DO you carry on with life especially after having been married for 53 years? We quickly push those thoughts away from our brain as quickly as they arrive… I mean, who wants to think about that stuff?
But the anxiety creeps back in when the news from the doctor isn’t so great… Or when you escape a traffic accident by mere inches… Or when you’re enjoying an ocean view at your favorite restaurant and your thoughts innocently wander off into what the future holds and you startlingly realize that one of you will likely die first…
Most of the time death is messy. Only the brave, organized ones leave behind perfectly filled-out paperwork with their end-of-life preferences wrapped neatly with a bow to help with an easier transition for the grieving. Many who are grieving panic when they’re required to provide info they don’t know as they’re doing paperwork associated with a death because they can’t remember the social security number of their spouse or the exact city where they were born. Wow… come to think of it… I still have some loose ends I need to tie up.
It is scary to think about how life would go on for those you love after you die. I guess I’ve always presumed that I would die first – especially ‘cuz there’s 7 years difference in our ages… And now, with my recent health issues – it seems way more of an imminent reality than I’d care to admit. I kinda feel that part of my job now is to prepare Mr. Stars for his future.
Preparing for the future helps me cope in the present. I dunno why… it just does. It gives me more of a peace of mind, I guess.
I truly want Mr. Stars to thrive in life with or without me. Of course I’d much prefer it to be WITH me…lol… And I definitely want to thrive WITH him… ‘cuz I really don’t look good in black.
So I tenderly nudge him by saying things now that he can recall hearing me actually say if/when the subject comes up in the future. I consciously plant seeds… Things like how I’m not worried about whether or not he is physically by my side at my exact moment of death – because he’s solidly been by my side every moment of our lives together.
Because of that – it’s really impossible for me to “die alone.” He has been “there” for me in such beautiful ways that are far beyond mere mortal imaginations. In fact, if I’m honest, I’m really not wild to think that his last visual of me would be of when I take my final breath. I would much rather have him remember me being alive… Those final moments can be pretty traumatic and the memories can take years to erase…
But at that point, it’s not about me – it’s about him. If he can or wants to be there that’s totally kewl, too. I just think too often people kick themselves because they weren’t physically “there” at the exact moment when their loved one died… I believe the question we should be asking ourselves is – Were we “there” for them when they were alive?
Mr. Stars and I have joked together about how we should be appropriately sad when one or the other of us dies – but then we’re both mandated to move on so we could thrive once again. It’s an expectation – and it includes being with whomever and doing whatever… Or else the one who died will come back and kick the living spouse’s dupa (ass). Seriously, it would piss me off if he didn’t…
The goal is really the same whether we are alive or not – We want each other to thrive in life.
So you see… Dr “K” knows he’s not doing what his wife would have wanted him to do… He simply cannot find it within himself to move on without her. To be fair, it’s hard to move on when someone has cut off your right arm. However, the fact that he’s seriously contemplated suicide would have absolutely made her roll in her grave.
Dr. “K’s” graveside downward spiral talk was actually saved by the bell as they say – or at least saved by the sound of his pager going off (Yes, boys and girls – that was a “beeper” from a galaxy far, far away).
Rebecca Was a Hormonal Meanie Weenie
Being pregnant in the summer is tough. Being pregnant in the summer with twins is really tough – My sister-in-law went through it. However, being pregnant in the summer with triplets is just plain wackadoo. I have a really good friend who did it. Not fun. Great… Yes… but fun… no. Both sets were born in August. Yikes!
Rebecca was pregnant with triplets in the middle of summer. It’s amazing she was not only NOT on bedrest by that point but that she also had the fortitude to still be able to dance at 9 months pregnant. Every part of her body must have been painfully swollen.
Did I mention they didn’t have centralized air conditioning?
Rebecca loved the first months of pregnancy – but now, not so much. Her hormones essentially created a monster – who turned on and then attacked the closest living donor. She said a lot of meanie weenie stuff to him. At one point, she actually told Jack, “There are too many things in this house and I need you to not be one of them.” Well, I guess it’s better than, “Get the F outta here,” no?
Run Jack, run!
While on the phone explaining the situation to his best friend, Jack invoked the ever popular, “She went to the dark side, man.” Isn’t it nice to see that Star Wars references (which were used throughout this episode) are timeless?
Fortunately, Jack decided to escape to the golf course. After getting into the car, Jack took a metal lighter out of the glove compartment – flicked it on – then used it as a candle and comically, yet honestly prayed, “Hey God, I know we only talk during playoff season – but if You’re listening – I’m concerned that my wife might be possessed by demons.” I died laffin’.
Jack felt like a duck out of water at the golf course. A new friend explained golf as a haven to new fathers. He said golf is, “Five blissful hours where your wife won’t tell you that you’re holding them wrong or feeding them wrong – or just being generally wrong.”
Realizing that golf was being used as an escape mechanism, Jack said, “I don’t want to escape her – I want my future vomiting, crap-riddled kids… I just want more time with them… I want to freeze time so I can get a little bit more.” Miguel looks at him like he’s an alien… and Jack leaves. One of the fellow golfers says, “Well, that guy’s gonna make us look bad.”
We know that ultimately Jack died in the series… We just don’t know when or how at this point. We get a sense that he left way too early. The concept of “freeze time” will likely be revisited over and over again. I’m already sad and Jack hasn’t even died yet. <Sigh>
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…
Rebecca looks at her own distorted reflection in a metal toaster. She concludes, “I am a monster.” She ponders how much more time she has before her babies are born so she goes to the calendar to count out the weeks.
She became aghast when she learned that it was Jack’s birthday and that she had completely forgotten about it! Not only that – but that she knew that she had been an absolute monster to him. She decided she needed to make him a fancy almond chocolate cake to show him that she loved him – but she didn’t have the ingredients.
She duct-taped flip-flops to her swollen feet (the only shoes that will fit her at this point) and waddled the nearest store. By the way, those who remember my flamingo story from a couple of posts back – my friend sent flamingo duct tape to me this year for Christmas (among other fun things)…lol. Using flamingo duct tape on her shoes would have been quite a fashion statement, no?
The nearest store happened to be a “Liquor and More” store but her shopping list included ingredients not part of the “and More.” When she complained about the store not having what she needed, the store owner says, “Ma’am, this is a liquor store” She responds, “I know but it says “Liquor and More” so where’s the more?” Okay, “This Is Us – Writers” – Don’t think we didn’t get your little joke of Mandy More actually demanding “more.” Gotta love these little jokes along the way, no?
Rebecca is set on creating something special for Jack for his birthday. Teddy, the resourceful liquor store owner ever, tells her that she could squirt out the insides of a Twinkie and use it for frosting on a banana nut muffin. Doesn’t that sound scrummy? (Shout out to Mary Berry) Gotta love that imagination, no? Rebecca could have easily just put a candle in one of the chocolate Hostess cupcakes from another shelf… because, you know… chocolate… but she really did want to show that she put some degree of effort into his “birthday cake.”
She also ends up buying a Pittsburgh Steelers “Terrible” towel that was ultimately used as Jack’s birthday lap dance cover up, if you remember….
- Fireman Jack and Samantha ultimately declare a “do over” by Samantha repeating Jack’s first words back to him when they first met after she ran into him with her car. She said, “Hi, I’m Samantha – Don’t worry about what just happened. Can I take you out for a cup of coffee?”
- After rubbing her belly and telling her 3 unborn children, “I love you so much it hurts and I haven’t even met you yet” – Rebecca and Jack have to deal with having their hearts torn apart when they lose one of their babies in childbirth though they were both convinced they were supposed to take home 3 babies… Yet at the prodding of Dr. “K” they realize their dreams of going home with 3 babies might still come true when another baby landed “miraculously” right on their doorstep. They just had to be open to an uncolored and unconventional new definition of “family” during a time in history when that was a rarity.
- Dr “K” tells Jack, “I’d like to think that maybe one day you’ll be an old man like me – talking a younger man’s ear off explaining to him how you took THE sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade.” Dr. “K’s” advice healed his own heart and in the closing scenes you see him to moving forward with life. He cleaned out his house – and allowed a friendly widow to make him dinner. I’m sure they even went to see a “flick.”
Miracles do still happen.
Thank you, writers & director:
That’s it for last week’s episode… It was a pretty emotional one for me to write about… but we muscled through it together, right?
A tip/reward for reading this long post…lol: If you have to get rid of old medicine, please do NOT discard it by throwing it in the trash as was seen on the show (people and/or animals can find it and take it and get really sick) – or by flushing it down the toilet… Instead I found for MOST old medicine that you can take some kitty litter… put a small amount of pills on top… then pour warm water over the top of the pills. This will dissolve the pills safely and no one will eat cat litter. Lol… Perhaps you have other better ideas… but this worked for me.
Thanks for reading – This was a pretty vulnerable post for me on various levels and I love how the show does that… It took me forever to finish it because I could only do it in small stages… It’s a growth process for me… Hope to see you next time!
Video of the Week
I love watching animals play in snow – it just cracks me up. This clip has a few different animals in it – and I must admit that I don’t remember ever seeing an elephant play in snow. The sound the elephant makes just made me smile. Enjoy! YouTube video posted by The Oregonian entitled, “Snow day at the Oregon Zoo.”