I’m a firm believer in the sentimental moments in life. We should all cherish tender and personal moments more often than we do. They are what make us human and emotionally complete.
Unfortunately, life is like a movie. Too much sentimentality is going to make the audience uncomfortable. It needs to be balanced out with comedic relief every once in a while. If we lived in 100% drama 100% of the time, the Universe would cancel us after the first season. No one wants to watch something so soberingly serious.*
This is why the writers of Our Fate are brilliant. Every so often, they give us characters who enter our lives and leave just as quickly, and with them they take a little piece of what makes us want to cry.
On my recent trip to Los Angeles from the Bay Area, my mom asked me to stop by the San Joaquin Veterans Cemetery to deliver flowers to her dad who had passed about a decade ago. It had been years since I had visited my grandpa’s grave, so I looked fondly upon the task.
The cemetery was beautiful. It was nestled in the hills which were a vibrant green. The sun was shining, birds were flying – it was tranquility at its best. I found my grandpa’s grave, lay the flowers at the headstone, and began talking to him for the first time since my mid-teens.
“Hi Grandpa. It’s been a while. These flowers are from Mom. She wanted me to tell you she loves you. Grandma loves you too. We all love you. But I’m sure you knew this already…”
I started to get teary-eyed. Oh! – How much had happened since we last met! I was but a high-schooler then. I had yet to travel. I had yet to get my first job. I had yet to live on my own and do things adults do like file taxes and talk about “back in the day.” (modem sounds and dial up connections). Now I was seeing him for the first time as an adult with a college diploma and a marginal degree of respectability.
At that moment, a staff worker drove a tractor right behind me, pulled out a radio and a jackhammer, and started to work away to his hearts desire.
“…KAK! KAK! KAK! KAK! KAK!…”
“…KAK! KAK! KAK! KAK! KAK!…”
I didn’t want someone overhearing my heartfelt sentiments anyway, so I thought them in my grandfather’s general direction.
“…KAK! KAK! KAK! KAK!…”
“…KAK! KAK! KAK! KAK! KAK! KAK! KAK!…”
And that was that. I nodded my head and left. Thank you, man in the tractor. You saved me from the horrible burden of expressing emotion.
There was another time I was visiting my ailing uncle with brain cancer in Seattle with my family. It was New Years Eve after what was otherwise an anxious and tense Christmastime. My mom and sister decided to stay in the hotel and watch New Years happen on TV while my dad and I decided to walk around the harbor of Lake Union and watch the fireworks coming from the Space Needle.
The ailing uncle is my dad’s brother, so I imagined this experience to be particularly hard on him. A couple minutes before New Year’s, we had made our way over to the Center for Wooden Boats, and we stopped and sat. It was below freezing and we were mostly alone aside from the drunks would would occasionally walk by us on the way to or from a nearby bar. We sat in a somber, pensive silence. The Space Needle was beautiful. It was about two minutes ’till midnight. It had all the potential for an iconic Father-Son moment.
“Well, Son, Happy New Year’s.”
“Happy New Year’s, Dad.”
Then a drunk walked by and yelled to no one in particular: “Happy New Year, Motherfuckers!” And then he left.
Every so often, we need reminders that no matter how serious we are, we need to not be so serious. In the farce of our lives, these one-liner extra characters that come in and out are just as important for maintaining sanity as our co-stars and supporting roles. In their lives, too, do we share that role.
* This is a boldfaced lie because people watch Law and Order SVU. Why do people watch Law and Order SVU? WHY?! Every episode ends the same way!**
a) “The innocent little girl may be dead, but her father/uncle/grandpa*** will never hurt anyone ever again.”
b) “If only we could’ve stopped his father/uncle/grandpa from getting to his transexual gay lover too.”
c) “May single mothers everywhere sleep peacefully tonight.”
** By that I mean “one of three ways”
*** Not either/or. All three relations are the same person, as revealed by some plot twist three quarters of the way into the episode, before the second to last commercial break.