I’ve often mentioned my overall disdain for television. For a hundred reasons, we kind of checked out of TV land about ten years ago, and every time I peak back in, I find a reason to cringe. I’m only saying that to point out the unlikeliness of what’s happened.
I have been binge-watching the canceled CBS series Jericho during the twins’ late night feeding. By bing-watching, I mean four times a week or so, although I will admit to one or two nights of watching a two-fer. Don’t panic, it can’t last forever. They only produced two seasons of the show.
This is especially odd given that about a year ago I watched an episode from season two out of context and immediately pronounced it dumb. Don’t get me wrong – I still don’t think of it as great television. The acting can be bad, but the storyline is intriguing. Essentially, the US is victim of a mass nuclear attack. The plot follows the small, Kansas town of Jericho and how they deal with the aftermath.
All that to say that last night, I watched a scene that hit me far differently than I would have expected. In this particular episode, Johnston Greene, former mayor of the town and patriarch of the Greene family, is shot in a gunfight with a rival town and later dies on a friend’s kitchen table with his two grown sons at his side.
His boys, in their early 30’s, are stereotypical – the good, dull son who stayed in Jericho and the younger, exciting, slightly bad-boy who returned to redeem himself by knowing the ways of war. Together, these three pulled off one of the most touching death scenes I’ve ever watched. What surpised me, though, was not their emotions – it was my reaction.
My dad died when I was 28 years old. Knowing full well it was coming, I stood at the foot of his bed and watched the heart monitor flat line. I clearly remember telling Kelsey “I’m too young to not have a dad.” Thirteen years later, I still feel that. I miss him every day.
Under normal circumstances, upon seeing this scene, I’d relate to the sons…their emotions, their pain, their loss. Unexpectedly, last night, watching there on the couch with a daughter in arms, I found myself relating to the dying father.
In saying his goodbyes, he grabbed his younger son’s hand and whispered “I was too hard on you. I was…too hard on you, son.” His dying words – the most intentionally chosen of any man’s life – reflected a tenderness and very real pain.
It’s interesting that in this case, almost no one would say “I wish I would have been harder on you. I wish I would have punished you. I wish I would have whipped you into shape.”
“I was too hard on you.” That was his dying emotion…the sum of all feelings regarding his son.
I swallowed hard and relived a few scenes of my own in my head.
We’re all living out our death scene, in some respect. Admit it. We’re dying. Now or later, we’re dying. Why would we talk one way now and another later?
I looked at my boys differently this morning. I know what I want to say to them, and I don’t want to wait to say it. It”s far less harsh than it would be if I were going to live in this state forever.
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