I thought I was prepared for the finale of Zooey’s Extraordinary Playlist, the singing show. Where the manic pixie girl watches/hears people singing songs while dancing; usually about their inner thoughts. If you don’t know this show, it’s fine. This is not a review of it nor do you need to have an intimate knowledge of the minutia associated with this series.
The gut-wrenching heart of this show is Zooey’s dad dying. He has PSP, he’s non-verbal, he’s sliding slowly toward the grave. Or not so slowly, as the disease seems determined to ravish him, as diseases do. Odd choice for a generally happy idea show. To have the dad be robbed of movement and voice, and have this so darkly reflect in the lives of the characters. And how honest this show was about, well mostly, about what it’s like to have someone you love dying day by day by day. How fucking hard that is.
Where you clean up after them. Where you find yourself giving shots. Doing meds. Changing bedding right after an accident. Where you check tubes to make sure they’re not blocked. Where you hope the biggest hopes ever at the slightest uptick of progress. Maybe death won’t have to be faced so soon.
So, the finale of Zooey.
I sat there, watching. I thought it would be cutesy or they’d try something lighthearted or not so goddamn real.
That’s what this episode, despite all the singing and dancing and frothy who will Zooey choose man collection…got so right. How unreal, floaty, numbing and confusing death is when it arrives. Even when expected. Even when death sits on our couch to wait with us. It’s still a wrenching shock, a cry against something so ghastly unfair. It’s not welcome, it’s not that welcome friend at all.
I wept. I don’t mean the sniffing and tears of an ordinary sad or even that episode where something lovely happens, that longed for couple gets together or whatever. I mean weeping. Wrenched from me. This was like looking down at my mother, in the ICU, hooked to machines. How it wasn’t her anymore. It wasn’t her. That meat and bone and skin was not my mother. Where she was, she was not present in that round cool place in the heart of Boise, Idaho.
And knowing she had been gone a while before that fateful last day of hers. That I had missed her going. That I had spent more than a year of my life trying to keep her alive. That the cancer eating her up won. Won such a decisive victory. That I was the one who decided when the machines got turned off. That I had to make such a decision at all.
And my anger, my confusion, my utter blood-soaked pain. I heard no music. I didn’t get a sign she was ‘okay now’. I didn’t get the last words that told me…she knew her horrible daughter had done her best. I didn’t get to tell her.
So many things.
One thing the Zooey finale got wrong was how neat and tidy death seems. That the transition from life to death is such a tidy affair. It was hinted, by the caretaker to the dad, that death is messy, awful, terrible. An actual truth. They’d done the episode picking out plots and coffins. This family seems made of money so there’s nothing about the sheer cost of death itself.
Just a few thoughts on a show I’ve enjoyed thoroughly. It broke into my inner little sanctum, and I relieved those moments waiting to hear my mother had died. How that still seems as fresh as a bouquet of funeral daisies.