Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Ever since I became a daddy I cry when people die on tv

Even though, as a media and cultural studies teacher, it counts (semi-legitimately) as professional development, I don't watch much television anymore. Not since the baby arrived in July, anyway; I'm just too busy, and too tired, and ER hasn't been any good since Dr. Mark Greene died of brain cancer.

But although she's no fanatic -- she's always been admirably levelheaded about such things, the calm to my storm, able to take or leave almost anything -- Darcie's got her shows, and I found myself sucked in to NYPD Blue this evening merely because it was on in the corner while I sat fussing with email across the room. It's a show I watch seldomly, and then only in fits and starts, but tonight's episode, showing the tendrilous aftermath of a carjacking gone horribly awry, seemed especially noteworthy, both for its excellent narrative contruction, in that it showed three intertwined plot threads played out so seamlessly close that each new development fed at least two of the crimes, and for its personal emotional resonance.

Things take on relevance long after they pass, sometimes; what was small and unworthy of notice when it happened may unlock doors long after; I know I am not alone in missing the significance of events to myself when they happen; I know I am not alone. A few days after we came back from Boston, Darcie and I smelled acrid smoke in the dormitory hallway; Darcie went to check on the smell while I watched the baby. Later, she told me that the smoke was only Lewis, our dormitory's House Director, burning old student papers and curriculum planners in the dorm lounge fireplace. But it was her second-hand recitation of a stray comment made before the fire made by Lewis' wife Cal, whose mother passed away on New Year's Eve after a long bout with cancer, which I remember most strongly. According to Darcie, Cal mentioned that with the death of a close and loved family member, her first death, she had trouble watching the news, because all those people who die are suddenly real people.

Tonight, when the show ended, I shuffled cautiously around strewn clothes and still-unpacked vacation luggage to kneel at the side of the queen-sized family bed we three share. Poor night vision runs in my family; in the dark, I can barely make out Willow's features. My brain is filled with an audio/visual roaring like static on the television; I listen to the buzz and think nothing, but she is there; she is alive; she is helpless, her arms raised over her head in sleep as if in triumph. For Cal, it took death to make the universe real, if only for a short breath before memory brings her kind gloss to death as she does with all her precious gemstones. For me, in becoming a parent, all those people who die, fact or fiction, have become real. From now on, the baby whose drug-addled mother drowns her and leaves her on the roof to die, the carjacker who dies struggling with the accidental drugrunner's brother-with-a-record; the precinct captain's heroin-addicted ex-wife who ODs: they are all my daughter, and I cry for us all.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:24 PM |

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