‘This is Us’, Big Bang Theory, and Reflections as a Father

My wife and I have a couple of TV shows that we’ll watch fairly often. A few favorites that we catch on re-runs include Two and a Half Men and Big Bang Theory. We also enjoy ‘The Voice’ (at least during the initial auditions). Other than that, we’re more likely to sit down and watch a movie when we want an escape.

We got Hulu last year and we started watching the hit TV show, “This is Us“. We haven’t made it to season 3 yet but we’re near the end of season 2. My wife refers to it as the “crying show” because it often makes us both very teary eyed. The writing and acting are really top notch. It’s a great show.

One thing that makes the story and show different for me is Jack, the father figure. He’s certainly not perfect but it’s clear that he was an outstanding father to his 3 children as well as a wonderful husband to his wife. The main characters on the show definitely reinforce Jack as an amazing dad. Jack (played by Milo Ventimiglia) loved his children deeply. He was a terrific encourager and a strong role model. Fatherly wisdom seemed to flow from his mouth with ease. His character had a drinking problem during a couple of periods of adult life, which he addresses with the support of his wife Rebecca (played by Mandy Moore). His character is eventually open about his addiction with his children.

I’ll contrast Jack with a character from another popular TV show: The Big Bang Theory. If you’ve watched the show, you’re familiar with Howard Walowitz, the nerdy engineer with a bowl haircut. There’s one very moving episode (S12E06) where we learn that Howard’s father left him when he was young, and he never saw his dad again. Howard had later received a letter from his father but he refused to open it because the pain of the past was still too profound. He didn’t want to forgive him.

An emotional confrontation occurs when Sheldon opens the letter while helping to organize closet clutter, and he nonchalantly asks Howard a question about organizational preferences. Howard is profoundly upset about the opened mail, and he later decides to burn the letter without reading it, thus never knowing if his father had written him to ask for forgiveness, or perhaps to share about his deep regrets or that he was proud of him, etc.

Howard’s friends decide to each share something that might have been in the letter, with the understanding that only one of them would be telling the truth as to the letter’s true content. That episode was on again just recently. It’s very moving.

The character named Jack from This is Us is certainly a strong contrast to Howard’s dad. It’s been nice to see a solid fatherly role model in a TV show. We parents often struggle with guilt about the past. It’s common for us to have mixed feelings about our role as a mom or dad. I certainly do.

My Christian faith served to both help and hinder my role as a father. Actually, I think it was far more harmful than helpful. Christianity urged us to make God and Jesus the most important thing in our lives. I often had that mindset. Christianity also told us that Jesus was the role model to follow (a picture of perfection — just be sure to worship God in all you do!). I remember telling my ex-wife frequently that I felt like a terrible father (in large part because I had an image of Jesus-perfection in my mind). I spent a LOT of time, reading Christian theology books and Christian doctrine. Now, when I look back, I think, “what a fucking waste of time!! I could have spent more time just hanging out and playing games with my kids!”

I was often a little gloomy and not-so-happy around my kids, especially in their older teenage years. Christian-fueled guilt was often at work, and looking back it makes me angry that I could have been so much better and happier as a father, had I abandoned fundamentalism sooner

I do have a lot of happy memories with my three sons and two daughters. I remember reading a LOT of bed time stories when they were young. I loved shopping for the boys’ birthday and Christmas toys (I felt a little helpless when shopping for the girls – sorry).

I remember building snowmen and even a couple of snow igloos. We had some camping trips and attempts at fishing (alas, we were lousy fishermen). There were trips to the bowling alley. The go-cart track. Soccer games. And meals eaten out at restaurants. We had lots of animals (cats, dogs and chickens).

As the kids got older, we were less likely to have fun together. The pressure to hold down a job that paid well so that the wife could stay home was huge. I worked at a law firm for 14 years as an IT Director, and those work days were long and the years were horribly stressful.

The way that we each look back on the past can certainly vary, can’t it? Each of my kids likely has different memories that come to mind. For me, I could choose to focus on all of the negatives. Or I could remember the good times — the positives. I remember a lot of happy things.

I hope my children will do that. And I hope one day they will forgive their father for not being more like Jack.

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