Goodbye My Friends: Letting “The Office” Go

After “Seinfeld” ended, I sorta quit watching television.  And I mean that for a few years I occasionally watched “Friends” or “Frasier” and for a whole two years somewhere in there, the most tv I watched was “Teletubbies” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” when my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I would hang out early in the morning after we were finished with our night shift jobs.  If you know me now, it’s probably hard for you to imagine that there was ever a time when I wasn’t “obsessed with” or “addicted to” a television program (to use my husband’s kind words).  But I always think that my happiness is directly correlated to the number of tv shows I’m currently enjoying.  These tv-less years were some of the worst ones of my life.

And then in 2005 I saw the previews for a new comedy on NBC.  It was called “The Office” and it looked like something I might like.  Something that might bring me back to enjoying television.  Something that I could watch and laugh at while I was nursing my baby as I propped up my very swollen legs on my very pregnant body.  I remember looking forward so very much to that premiere.  I remember watching it live that night and falling completely in love with the characters.  I was sold.  And I loved tv again.

Just a few short months into the first season, my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I gave birth to my second child.  It was the darkest few months of my life and I swear that without Thursday nights and “The Office”, I’m not sure I would have made it.  I know that sounds ludicrous but it felt very real at the time.  I was hurling down a dark hole and for half an hour each Thursday night I would get to take a short break from the hell I was living in.

I emailed one of the cast members on MySpace and told her that my days were tough but that on Thursday nights, her show gave me a reprieve from my pain.  I thanked her.  She responded that, “This too shall pass” and that she appreciated my reaching out to her.  She sent me a few links to YouTube videos to cheer me up.  I cried.

I never stopped watching.  I watched with my husband every week until my son was diagnosed with leukemia and we no longer lived together.  He stopped watching with me and I kept watching alone in order to maintain my sanity.  He resented me for it.  What he didn’t understand is that “The Office” was the one thing that kept me sane.

I remember Christmas of 2010 when my son and I spent our day in the hospital after his bone marrow transplant, comforting ourselves by watching every Christmas episode of “The Office” there was.  At some point he announced that when it was time for him to make his wish with the wish-granting organization it was going to be for me to be able to meet the cast and visit the set of “The Office”.  I shared his sweetness on Facebook and my friend Katie and her dad made this happen:

An Autograph from Creed Bratton that made our whole week.

An Autograph from Creed Bratton that made our whole week.

I have cried as I’ve had to say goodbye to Michael Scott.  I have cried as I have watched Pam and Jim fall in love, get married, have their first baby, and then fall completely apart because that is what happens in a marriage.  They just fall apart.  I have cried as I’ve watched Dwight finally named manager.  And today I cry because two days from now will be the series finale and I’m. Not. Ready.

No, the show hasn’t remained the same.  Or even as good as it always was.  But it was still there.  Consistent.  Never failing.  Through the years that “The Office” has been on the air, I have watched my mother die, my children be born, my oldest son battle cancer, and my marriage nearly end.  But no matter how hard things were, my favorite tv show was always there.  It has been a comfort in ways that I can never describe.

This isn’t just the end of a television show.  It’s the end of an era.  And now, as I prepare myself to be completely incapacitated after watching the series finale, I must learn to accept that this is a new era.  An era defined by older kids, homeschooling, running a business, and watching “Community”, “Doctor Who” and “Parks and Recreation”.  But be assured, “The Office” will remain in our Netflix queue in constant rotation from now until the end of television, which, God-willing, will never happen.

To the cast, writers, producers of “The Office”:

Thanks for all of the laughter, all of the tears, and for the constancy.

You will be missed.  Looking forward to seeing what comes next for each of you.

Goodbye my friends.


The Reminding Comb


Ever since my mom died seven years ago (Wow, seriously?  Seven years ago?) and I was never given a chance to go back to the house in which I grew up and say goodbye to the remaining tangible pieces of my past, I have been fiercely protective of what few trinkets and baubles I have left from my time at “home”.  There is a tiny plastic Poochie box floating around here somewhere and I still have a few of the bookmarks that I purchased at some of my first book fairs when I was just learning to read.

If I fear at any point that one of these items is missing or broken, I start to freak out a little.  For it seems that I feel as if the parts of me that are remaining from my childhood will vanish into thin air if these small items are no longer with me.  It’s like maybe they are taking the place of the brothers and sisters that I don’t have.

Another one of these “sibling items” is a plastic green comb.  A wide toothed comb that my parents had in the house before I was even born.  This sucker is an antique.  I’ve used it throughout my entire life.  It has a hole drilled in it so that I was able to hang it on the shelf that my dad made me to hang in the shower of my apartment.  These days it tends to rest in the cups from IKEA hanging next to the shower.  Also in these cups are things like my razor, dental floss, shampoo.  A funky modern twist on your typical shower caddy.
Ever since the moment that my daughter was wheeled away from me in the pre-op room on the day that she donated her bone marrow to save her brother’s life, she’s been dealing with some crippling anxiety.  That day was over 2 years ago now and I’m just realizing that these issues of fear and paranoia are not going away but are instead getting worse.  She can’t seem to enjoy simple things like a walk around the neighborhood without trembling in terror.

I’ve also noticed that she doesn’t like to walk down the hall alone.  Now, please note that we don’t have a large house.  In fact, our house is barely big enough for the five of us.  It’s a ranch style house with a short hallway that ends in a cluster of three small bedrooms.  That’s it.  No dark corners or secret places.  It’s a very small house.  Still, she will literally RUN down the hall in order to get from one room to the other.  She will NOSE dive on the sofa or a bed in order to avoid the zombies she imagines to be under them.  Her thoughts are constantly being invaded by these fears.

Recently we were having one our  “Ten Minute Tidies”:  we all team up and get the house looking decent in a short period of time.  It works beautifully.  A lot of how this process works involves me handing the kids items and having them travel down the short hallway into one of the three bedrooms or two bathrooms to deliver the items to their homes.  During this particular Ten Minute Tidy, I had sent my daughter down the hall to deliver my green comb to my bathroom.  A couple of days later I went to use my comb and one of its teeth were missing.  It was a snaggle-toothed comb.

How did this happen?  How would a comb that was at least 40 years old without a scratch on it suddenly lose a tooth?

I had a feeling my daughter might know something about this.  But when her dad and I asked her, she denied it.  She had no idea what happened to my precious comb.  We reminded her that no one was going to be in trouble… we don’t really do “in trouble”.  We just wanted to know what happened as combs don’t just lose their teeth without just cause.

Finally her brother told me.  The comb had ended up in the toilet the day that I had asked his sister to take it back to the bathroom for me.  And rather than bother to come and tell me and her dad, she took care of it herself.  Hence the missing tooth.

At first I laughed and imagined that this was simply an example of a kid doing their job poorly.  She had delivered the comb but she probably threw it into the bathroom because she was in a hurry and….

Over the next couple of weeks I pondered the comb incident.  I thought about it each time I saw the comb or used the comb.  I imagined what would have been the cause for her to land that comb in the toilet.  What on earth?

The more I saw her running down the hall and leaping onto beds and sofas, the clearer the story became.  She had not thrown my beloved comb out of feeling rushed or for disrespect towards my stuff.  No, she’d thrown it out of anxiety.  And fear.  When I had asked her to deliver the comb, she had been terrified.  She didn’t want to go back to my bathroom.  She didn’t like going back there alone.  And so she had thrown the comb so that she didn’t have to actually enter the bathroom.  She was simply coping.

The comb has more meaning to me now.  Even missing a tooth, it is more valuable to me than it ever was when it was simply a relic from my childhood.  It is now a reminder of what my daughter can and cannot handle.  It’s a reminder to treat her gently because she’s dealing with some really heavy stuff.  It’s a reminder to not send her off down the hallway without a buddy.  And it’s a reminder that she sacrificed her innocence and became old overnight in many ways, so that my oldest child could live.

Of course we are addressing my daughter’s anxiety issues.  We talk a lot.  We have started using essential oils.  And I’m collecting names of counselors for her.  I suppose the most important thing that has changed, however, is that I’m aware now of the depth to which her fear runs and I’m paying attention.  I’m compensating for it and I’m providing her with support.  Certainly I am not offering up any judgment.  I’m letting her be her and I’m loving her where she is at.