Wednesday, February 15, 2017

This Is Us . . . and I am Randall.

I've been wanting to write a post about the TV show This Is Us for some time.  Last night's show gave me the perfect opportunity to do so.

(Note:  This post contains spoilers for last night's episode, as well as for some aspects of the series.)

For those not familiar with the show, NBC-TV's This Is Us followed two stories simultaneously.  The first story is that of Jack and Rebecca Pearson and their triplets.  The triplets were born in 1980.  The second story is that of the triplets--Kevin, Kate, and Randall--in the present day.  They are now 36.

Last night's story devoted much of its time to Randall.

Randall is adopted.  He is also African-American.  In the present-day portion of This Is Us, he is married with two young daughters and works as a commodities trader, a very high-stress job.  He was born the same day as Jack and Rebecca's triplets.  His biological mother died giving birth, and his biological father left him at a firehouse. Randall was taken to the hospital by one of the firemen.

In the first episode of This Is Us, we learned that one of Jack and Rebecca's triplets died at birth. They ended up adopting Randall because they felt that they were meant to have three children.
We also see in that first episode that Randall located his biological father . . . who ends up living with Randall's family.

In subsequent episodes, we learn that:

  • Randall's biological father is dying of pancreatic cancer
  • Rebecca has known who Randall's biological father was for all of Randall's life, and never told him
  • Randall found out about Rebecca's secret at Thanksgiving, and he is still dealing with the emotional fallout
  • Randall was identified as "gifted" as a child and was placed in private school
  • He struggles with perfectionism
  • His accounts are being split with a co-worker 
  • He temporarily went blind as the result of stress
  • Last week, his hand was shaking at the end of the episode
Last night, we saw Randall start to crumble.  

His accounts are being split.  His father is dying.  His family relationships are stressed and strained. And at the beginning of the episode, his wife's mother fell and broke her hip.

So, since Randall's wife needs to be with her mother, Randall hires a nurse to care for his father, William.

Within hours, he receives a call at work, saying that William has fired the nurse and locked her out of the house.  When Randall goes back home to deal with the situation, William gives a heartbreaking summary of how his body doesn't work right anymore.

Back at work, Randall comes in late to a video conference call, begins to give the numbers that they need . . . and he can't do it.  His co-worker has to step in and finish for him.

Randall, by the end of the episode, is in crisis and can barely function.

Next week shows Randall and William going off to Memphis on a road trip.  I hope this will help Randall heal and have some closure with William.

Oh, did I mention that this is the second father Randall will lose?

We know that Jack Pearson died when the triplets were in their mid- to late teens.  Kate has Jack's ashes.  We don't know yet exactly when or how Jack died.  (This has become the biggest question on TV since "Who shot JR?" in the early 1980's.)

Last night I realized something.

I am Randall.

I'm not adopted.  I'm not African-American.  I'm not part of a group of triplets.  And I don't work in a high-stress job like Randall does.

But I have a mother in assisted living.  My sister, who lives in the same city and state as my mother, does an excellent job of keeping an eye on my mother and getting her to where she needs to go.  But it's stressful.  My mother has a difficult time carrying on a conversation, and her activity is limited.

We have serious debt.  For the last year and a half, I've been working from home to try and pay it back.  It will probably take about six years to do it.  And there are days where the debt seems insurmountable.

Our son just turned 18.  He has autism.  Next month, my husband and I have a court hearing at which we will probably be awarded guardianship.  Practically, nothing will really change--Matthew will still live at home (and still have his iPod to watch :-) ).  But it just underscores how different our lives are from the average lives of parents of 18-year-olds.  Most 18-year-olds are deciding where to go to college, who to date, and getting their driver's license.  My 18-year-old may or may not ever do any of those things.  And always, there is the question of, what happens when we're gone?  (The vast majority of our debt is student loan debt that I accrued while going to court reporting school, hoping to get a job to pay for Matthew's future care.  I frankly don't trust that the governmental "safety net" is going to be there for him when he needs it.  But I didn't finish school because I was unable to get up to the required writing speed needed to graduate.  In fact, only 10% of people who start court reporting school finish it.)

I'm trying to come to terms with certain things that happened during my childhood (mostly bullying and the reaction to it from the adults in my life.)

I am also trying to deal with faith issues that, on some days, seem impossible to handle.  My major issue is, everyone believes they are right and they can "prove" it by Scripture, but when people end up coming to diametrically opposed conclusions, how do you know who's right?  How do you know who to trust?  (During a discussion session at a women's conference I attended recently, I had a mini-meltdown and said, "I want to be a good Christian but I don't know how.")  Compounding that question is the fact that I dealt with abusive, unhealthy religion both as a child and in college.  There was just enough good mixed in with the bad to make untangling them both nearly impossible to do.

I fear that the major reason I'm a Christian is that I don't want to go to hell, and that's no longer a good enough reason for me to be a Christian.  It's a valid reason, but I want more than just avoiding eternal punishment.

I have multiple chronic health issues--TMJ, possible adrenal fatigue, chronic bladder inflammation, back pain, depression and possible OCD, sleep apnea (I use a CPAP for the apnea).  I see doctors for all of them and take meds for some of them.  I also see a counselor for the depression/OCD.  But I don't hold out a lot of hope for me ever getting better.

I desperately need to lose weight.  Last year, I started walking and that worked for a while, then my foot started hurting, AND I pulled a calf muscle or ligament.  So I've switched to swimming--which involves me packing a bag and going to the pool, and that takes effort.  This past week, I've been sick with a cold (so has my husband) and so I haven't exercised at all.

I want to write.  I have now published a book.  But I am afraid I won't live long enough to write all the books I want to write, and I HAVE TO earn money to pay off debt.  I can't write full time in the hope that I may make money. The health issues I have often sap my energy, and the stress of dealing with my issues drain me even more.  (And then I think of Laura Hillenbrand, who wrote Seabiscuit while confined to bed with chronic fatigue syndrome, and ask myself, "So what's YOUR excuse?" and it makes me feel even more guilty.)

I'm also not happy with current events, and lately, I've been ignoring headlines about the latest antics of this administration.  But decisions they make WILL affect me, and my family, even though I have no input into them.

This week, I've used my cold as an excuse to rest.  With both my husband and me being ill, we've fallen behind on chores.  I finally did laundry just to have something to wear.  And it's not done yet. There's other stuff around the house that should be done (we have a sliding glass door that won't open and also an automatic garage door opener that doesn't work) and stuff in the house that I'd like to do (I'd love new carpeting and I'd love to paint the interior walls a different color) but just thinking about it adds to my stress level, and also, the money is just not there to do it.

I sometimes think that if I ask for help, I will be shamed for it.  I'm not even sure who to ask, or what to ask for.  And I sometimes feel like the act of asking for help is a reason to be shamed.  Especially when much of the help we need comes from public agencies.  I'm a political conservative, and I'm not sure how much the government should be involved in such help.  But sometimes, I've had to sacrifice those principles to the practical reality of need.  I didn't want to apply for the Katie Beckett waiver because I didn't think the government should be involved in our son's health care.  Trying to pay for his speech therapy on our own nearly broke us financially, and we've never recovered.  So we wound up applying for it and getting it.  In the last couple of years, Matthew has no longer needed the therapy that the Katie Beckett waiver paid for, and so we discontinued it.  There are two services I need to apply for for Matthew--the NOW/COMP waiver and vocational rehab services--and the idea of filling out and submitting the paperwork just simply overwhelms me.  (I may wait to do this until after Matthew's guardianship hearing.  We will have proof of guardianship after that.)

And admittedly, this is a selfish concern, but:  If Frank dies before I do, and I become ill or incapacitated . . . who takes care of me?  My son doesn't have the capacity to make decisions on my behalf.  And I don't want to be old and isolated, either.

Like Randall, I am very much a perfectionist.  Like Randall, I am faced with a ill parent.  Like Randall, I worry about bringing in an income.  Like Randall, I worry about my family.

Unlike Randall, my caregiving challenge is with a child.  Unlike Randall, I have a spouse with a stable job.  Unlike Randall, my ill parent is being well-cared for.  Unlike Randall, I can still reasonably function.  I am not sitting against the wall staring into space like Randall was at the end of last night's episode.

But like Randall, I am facing cumulative stress.

I am Randall.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

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