Run to the Distant Shores

You can write about anything which has been vivid enough to cause you to comment upon it.

–Dorothea Brande


Yesterday morning, I got ready for my weekly breakfast with N early, for the express purpose of squeezing in the Parenthood series finale before any other humans were about. That was a wise decision.  After six years of family drama, crammed, for me, the binge watcher who came late to the party, into a couple of months, the story of the Bravermans was done. Time for viewers, as well as characters, to leave the baseball diamond and head to their respective homes. The elder Zeek has quit this mortal coil, Zeek the younger has been born. Camille finally got to see the French B&B, though on her own, dangit. Max is grown. Joel and Julia are back together, eventually parents to four kids, the same number as Zeek, Sr. and Camille had. Crosby saves the Luncheonette, with Jasmine’s support, and allows big brother Adam to leave the business they built together, to pursue his own late-found passion for teaching. Sarah and Hank successfully blend their families. Amber makes the hard decision to raise baby Zeek on her own, because ex-fiancé, Ryan, needs to get himself clean before he can be anybody’s anything, and, in the flash-forward, he does. He arrives at a family function with toddler Zeek, greets Amber and her husband with affection, and everybody seems perfectly fine. It’s that flash-forward that made me cue up the pilot episode of Friday Night Lights, even though I care precisely nothing for football, because Amber eventually marries Jason Street from that show, so it’s part of the same story, so of course I’m there.

None of those names or references are going to mean much of anything to anyone who hasn’t seen Parenthood, but that’s fine, because we’re not talking about that specific TV show here, exactly. There is going to be a certain amount of blabber, because this is my blog and that’s what I do. Because this show has firmly found a spot among my favorites, and its finale is what sparked this post, there’s going to be some direct reference, but what sticks with me most, and where I want to keep my emphasis, is on the feelings. No matter what I’m reading or viewing, it’s the way the characters and story make me feel that takes precedence, which is probably a good thing for a romance writer.

About four episodes or so into season one, I had to frantically check the internet for assurance that Crosby and Jasmine would, despite any obstacles, reach their HEA, before I could proceed any further. If they weren’t endgame, I was out of there, but, fortunately (for me and for their two more subsequent children) they were. Ditto when the first fissures formed in Joel and Julia’s marriage. They couldn’t lose everything over miscommunication. I still wasn’t over their first adoption falling through (Julia sobbing in the hospital room when the birth mother changed her mind broke me, which is exactly what a scene like that is meant to do, so props to writers and to actor Erika Christiansen for selling it the way she did.) I wanted both Peet and Ed to step on a fleet of Legos, and, when that kiss on the ice rink happened, signaling that Joel and Julia had picked love over all, yes, I did pump both fists in the air and scream. There are perks to watching Netflix when one is home alone. That is one of them. Then again, when their kids get an eyeful of that kiss, proving that Mom and Dad are back together, and everything is okay.

A show based on ripping the viewer’s heart out and putting it back together, mended with gold, as the Japanese tradition, to make a broken vessel all the more beautiful in the healing, well, that’s exactly what I’m shooting for, in romance novel form. This does of course mean there will be more in depth studying of the story arcs, paying close attention to what Jason Katims and company did, and how they did it, to effect emotions so strongly that I would have to pause and check before proceeding. Time to go on the journey again, this time knowing how everything is going to turn out, and see where the threads weave in and out of each other along the way.

I liked that it wasn’t perfect-perfect. Zeek Senior is dead, which does color everything, but it’s also the logical end to the story, so I’m fine with that. Ray Romano did an amazing job as Hank, and I do ship him and Sarah, but what if she’d been able to make things work with much younger ex-fiancé, Mark? Jason Ritter also did an amazing job, and, though we don’t see Mark’s eventual wife, or even learn her name, the actor conveys that Mark did find happiness again. Little bit of a knife twist that Mark’s wife is due to give birth to their first child a couple weeks after Sarah’s first grandchild is due, but that’s life, isn’t it?

We don’t always get it right on the first try, and bad things happen to good people. Sometimes, very bad things, and sometimes, those bad things travel in packs, but love (in all its forms) is stronger. Not all that different from the structure of the romance novel there, is it? We see plenty of romance in Parenthood, both successful and otherwise; not only the hearts and flowers, but the heartbreak, and the black moments, and all that comes after. A once up on a time friend once said that all of my stories are about moving on after a loss, and there is some truth to that. What other alternative is there? Feel the pain and the anger and the grief, let them do their jobs, and know that there will be something else on the other side.

At the end of a good story, the characters aren’t the same as they were on page one (or in the pilot, and they can’t be. They’ve been through the fire, lost some things, gained others, and, in a romance, they come through it together. I can’t think of a story I would like to tell more than that one, time and time again.


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