I met up with an old girlfriend today. I hadn’t seen her in years. It was strange and awkward, mixed with a blend of both comedic and emotional moments. In the two hours I spent with her, I was reminded of all the wonderful things that made our relationship so special and vibrant. It’s as if every week she gave me something new and beautiful, and being with her made me feel giddy and alive inside.
Of course, we inevitably reached the topic of conversation about when we broke up. About how she broke my heart. It was devastating. It was surreal. It was one of those things that leaves you asking yourself, “Is this really happening?” I would see her from time to time after that moment and think how there was still something magical there. I would want to run back to her but I knew I just couldn’t. I couldn’t invest myself once again into that relationship. For two hours I took a stroll down memory lane with her, and that was just good enough for me.
Okay. The truth of the matter is this ‘girlfriend’ of which I speak is actually a show. ‘ER’ to be exact. The two hours I spent was in front of my TV as I watched the series finale on my DVR. I hadn’t watched an episode of ‘ER’ in over 5 years. I broke up with the show after the character of Dr. Green died. And yes, I will admit it: I cried. It just wasn’t the same for me after the departure of Dr. Green, and even though I tried to watch it here and there after that point, I just couldn’t find that rhythm I once had with the show. For the record, I totally gave up on ‘ER’ after the character of Dr. Romano was killed by a falling helicopter. For me, that is when the show “jumped the shark”, although in watching the retrospective special for ‘ER’, I apparently missed a lot.
So I sat there watching the series finale, allowing myself to be taken back to 1994 when it all began, all the while realizing I was not getting anything done on this Saturday afternoon as I had planned. My nonproductive laziness aside, watching the final episode was a somewhat emotional journey into the past. I remember my little apartment in Kenner, Louisiana from where I watched the pilot. I remember water cooler talk about the show on Friday mornings with my coworkers. I remember falling in love with the characters, specifically Dr. Green, and it was the first time I let myself get so emotionally invested in a fictitious person since Alex P. Keaton of Family Ties (that’s another blog for another day, my friends).
In addition to the phenomenon that exists whereby a writer can create a character or situation, make this character come alive on stage or screen, and we, the audience, are left captivated and oftentimes infatuated with this work of fiction; that magic is completely intensified with the passage of times. 15 years have passed since the Thursday night in Kenner where I was first introduced the staff of Chicago’s County General Hospital. Think about that. 15 years! Bill Clinton was halfway through his first term, Dallas and San Francisco were still NFL dynasties, and Forrest Gump was teaching us all that life is like a box of chocolates. The ink was barely dry on my college diploma when NBC aired the pilot for ‘ER’, and those days now seem like a lifetime away.
The experience of watching the final episode of what used to be my favorite show leads me to this; there is something magical about the memories we hold in our hearts. It allows us, if for only ever so briefly, to escape to a world or moment when things were perhaps better or maybe even perfect. Being reminded about the characters that came and went in ‘ER’ made me think about my dad and how I still feel the void he left with his passing back in ’04. The show took me back to those first few months out of college and my green experiences in the ‘real world’, where delusion and reality fiercely collided head-on. It took me back to a time when I couldn’t even begin to imagine the life I now lead, and all the blessings that fill it every day. Indeed, there is something magical in those memories, and it creates more giddy feelings of excitement as I think of the memories that are still yet to come.
I tip my hat to everyone who had a part in making ‘ER’ one of the most celebrated dramas in the history of television. Specifically, to the writers that filled the screen and my Thursday nights with characters that were true, gritty and real, I want to thank you for the pleasure of watching your work come to life and for the inspiration that you give me every time I take a stab at putting my thoughts down for others to read. I only hope that one day the byproduct of my fingers hitting the keys can create a magical memory for a reader somewhere down the road.