Warning: Spoilers. Yeah, bitch. Spoilers.
This looks like a post about Breaking Bad. See - there's even a picture of the show logo here:
Today everyone's talking about Breaking Bad. About what it means. About Stevia and garage door openers and "Yeah. Science." And that's awesome. I am a fan of Breaking Bad and will be forever grateful for Vince Gilligan's fiction. I'll get to my show-based talky talky at some point in the future when yesterday's finale stops hurting so damned much. But this isn't about the show, really.
Sort of about the show, I guess, in that it's about how I relate to the show. It's a piece about me. Or maybe it's about cancer, too. A piece about me and cancer and Breaking Bad. See, the show started about four months to the day after my stepfather had a surgery for a stomach rupture caused by the chemotherapy doctors were using to treat the multiple cancers riddling his body. When I read the promotional material for BrBa, I wasn't sure I could watch it. A schoolteacher diagnosed with terminal cancer decides to cook meth? First of all, it's insane. Secondly, it's insane. Finally: the cancer. Because we'd just lived it, who, having seen it in real life, wanted to watch it?
Turns out, I did. The first episode was hard to take. The lonely MRI and PET scan machines. The awful news. The vivid moment of diagnoses when all of the sound gets muffled. Despite having just ended watching my stepfather battle cancer for five years, I took on watching a show depicting a similarly awful diagnosis. Because it was fiction. Because I believed in the face of awful, terminal cancer, maybe I could learn something interesting from this strange little television show. I'm glad I gave it a chance despite everything in me screaming that I shouldn't.
In the past six years, I've gotten to see Bryan Cranston play a fictional guy who did it all wrong, highlighting for me, the amazing choices of the real-life guy I know who did it right. Walter White said he did it all for his family. The real guy I know - he did it all for his family - he lived in the face of a horrific diagnosis with acceptance and grace. Six years ago today, we unhooked every tube and monitor from my stepfather and he lifted his hand in the air with the movement of a graceful bird taking flight.
Last night's finale was hard because Breaking Bad was a beloved show in our home. We looked forward to every episode. We watched them all. Some more than once. Or twice. Or, ahem, well, just more. I love the characters Vince Gilligan created - and how they interacted with the world and with each other. Above all else, I appreciate how real the morality of the show was and how terminal the show was. Because let's get this straight - no matter how much cancer faded into the background, I didn't believe for a moment that it was survivable.
More than that though, I appreciate how deeply and beautifully the show made me understand the real life cancer story we lived shortly before the BrBa universe appeared -- and how strikingly different were the choices of the real man who lived it.
BrBa left us with Ozymandius's colassal wreck - and the hollow command: "Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair". And last night, we did. Every one of Walt's hubristic choices over the course of the series led up to this awful, difficult, dreary end. But the series finale also challenged me to reflect upon my stepfather's works - a lifelong dedication to people, dedication to and participation in the lives of his children, his last days in a hospital room filled with love and light, with laughter and family and friends built through a lifetime of giving. I realized with distinct clarity all of the things Walter White was missing. As he caressed Holly's curls in last night's episode, I remembered six years ago tonight, my daughter in her pale pink ballet slippers dancing in my stepfather's hospital room as he clapped with joy. As Walter White stood alone watching Jesse drive away, I remembered a crowded waiting room full of people who loved and supported my stepfather in his final days. As Heisenburg lay all alone, I remember my stepfather's death surrounded by a crowd of people who loved him and loved each other.
Yeah, bitch! Isn't that one of the most amazing things about art? That sometimes it's meant to take us to our dark places and remind us of every bit of brilliance and light worth remembering.