Several friends and I were sitting around a table recently, catching up on each other's children, keeping a wide path around the election news, sipping hot tea with honey. It was a Friday. Someone mentioned they had looked at the clock at nearly midnight the night before, surprised that they had been sitting there watching reruns of Blue Bloods for five hours. She wasn't the only one, as it turned out. These women and I are all living alone now, for various reasons and the evenings can press in.
We started naming our favorite shows and they all had things in common: they were all about several generational families who come together at least one day a week for a meal and good talk. These families have their disagreements but are usually able to talk them out without hurting each other. They are committed to keeping the family strong and the kids are respectful of the elders. There is always laughter, open communication, patience and loving looks at the end.
Each of us sitting in that circle, looking into each others' eyes, listening to the day to day troubles and happenings, were inserting ourselves into Hollywood families via the TV screen several evenings a week. We have watched these families for so long they actually feel like our family. We have history. We have their history anyway. They don't know us. They are not real families at all, only actors playing a part. For all we know they may hate working together. We have actual families too, and spend days and evenings with them now and then. Those times do feed us and we love them, but something is always missing. There is always that feeling of a sigh at the end of the day, when we head to our own room for bed.
The person with whom we shared the lion's share of stories, jokes, memories and experiences is not there anymore. That is what we long for, that person with whom speech was not necessary most of the time. The sideways glance and a grin that spoke volumes is no more. The connection is different with a parent because the life memories are a generation apart. The same is true for connections with our grown children. The very closest of friends comes close, and helps tremendously, but is missing the depth of care, the interwoven love of a spouse.
We seek connection, so we sit and watch Danny Reagan wade out into the bad guys of New York City and come back to tease his little brother at the supper table. We watch the members of NCIS joke amongst themselves and Zeek Braverman raise a glass to his wild, witty and wonderful family at table beneath the party lights in the back yard. We pretend we are at that table too, having a glass of wine, laughing about the antics of someone whom we have loved for years. It kind of works. It probably isn't tremendously healthful to be doing that, but it keeps the gray away once the sun goes down. Some nights it is too difficult to stay inside a good book.