My husband, Jonathan, was out of town last week, and although I knew I would miss him, I also looked forward to getting lots of things done with more time to myself: Write, read novels, get going on turning my 26-year-old daughter’s long-vacated bedroom into a guestroom from its former incarnations as shrine and dumping ground. I also planned to eat salad for dinner every night and lose a little weight as a buffer against upcoming indulgent occasions. Instead I gained two pounds. I did eat a lot of salad, but I might have been ambushed by some late-night Haagen Dazs.
The real binge, however, was throwing myself headlong not into a pint of chocolate-chocolate chip, but into Season 4 of Parenthood.
Jonathan and I had tried a couple of episodes when the show first aired, but he didn’t like it, and I kept forgetting to watch it by myself in the rare free moments of a busy life. Then, in the fall of 2012, I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands while recovering from surgery and six rounds of chemo for uterine cancer. I needed something that would absorb me without requiring concentration, or risk pushing me over the brink of existential despair.
I devoured Parks and Recreation and Modern Family, but Parenthood was my favorite. What’s not to like about a cast partially drawn from Six Feet Under and Friday Night Lights, set in Berkeley, no less? I was hooked.
By the time my cancer rolled around, we no longer had TV, so I could not watch Parenthood in real time once I’d made it through the first three seasons. I knew about Kristina’s cancer, though, from the way friends would say, “Do you know what’s happening now? Kristina has–” Then they’d stop themselves, either wanting to protect me from revealing the plot or from mentioning cancer in case they labored under the illusion that it wasn’t constantly on my mind.
Before long, treatment was over, I got better, and my busy life resumed. Plus, Season 4 was not yet available on DVD.
Finally, though, it was. Just before Jonathan went on his trip, I got the notice from the library that I had made it off the long waiting list. I had three nights of Jonathan’s absence to watch 15 episodes if I wanted to avoid late fees.
I decided to forget about converting my daughter’s room, and pretty much everything else besides work. Season 4, after all, centered on Kristina’s cancer. Calling it “research,” since I write about cancer now and then, I put Disc 1 in the DVD and sat back–taken back to long days watching episode after episode to distract myself from feeling scared and unsteady.
Here’s what other memories Season 4 brought back:
- Telling our daughters I had cancer, particularly Emma via Skype, since she was working in Russia at the time. I remember watching the grainy screen as all the oxygen got sucked out of her. “I feel like I’m on another planet,” Emma said. Like Haddie in Parenthood, she couldn’t bear to be away either, and came back for an unexpected visit.
- Wanting our daughters to carry on with their lives as before; downplaying our fears and bad days to reassure them as much as possible.
- Being mad at my husband for saying I looked fine without my hair.
- The relentless and unhelpful demand for positive thinking from people who don’t know shit.
- Eating ice cream in defiance of the food police. (Do you sense an organizing principle in my life?)
- Getting a fever and going to the ER on a holiday weekend. In my case it was the day before President’s Day, not Christmas Eve. I went right away, unlike Kristina, who ignores her deteriorating condition and almost dies of sepsis. There were no family reunions and presents around my ER gurney. All my scare did was cancel a dinner party and delay chemo by a week so I could finish a short course of just-in-case high-powered antibiotics.
- Having a lot of helpful and caring people around, although with better coordinated food delivery so we never had a surplus of roast chickens left to rot in the fridge.
What didn’t ring true was looking like a deliberately bald haute couture runway model, or being perfectly made up all the time. In fact, my daughters dubbed me Gollem in my baldness. Oh, well, I’m in real life,not a TV series. Though I guess I could have had a shot at Lord of the Rings!
I’m looking forward to binging on Season 5 when it becomes available on DVD.
What’s your favorite comfort food or DVD series to binge on?