Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A death in the family, via Queen Sugar

I am currently working on a pilot set at a small women's HCBU. A lot of the shows that I had been watching have concluded lately, and I realized that I wasn't watching any dramas. Past television viewing counts for something, but it is good to have some connection to what is current as well.

I had heard good things about Queen Sugar and was already a fan of Ava DuVernay, so that seemed like a good starting point. As luck would have it, all of the first season was being rerun right before the start of the second season. I set the DVR to record and started watching.

It is a well-written and performed drama in many ways, but it hit me harder because of where my life is right now.

If you haven't watched, Ernest Bordelon has some good land for growing sugar cane that he has not been able to farm for two season, largely due to financial issues. His death brings his three children together as they try to honor their inheritance.

(This is a gross oversimplification, but it gets you started.)

Initially I thought it might be about an ailing parent rather than a lost parent; when Ernest first collapsed I thought he was gone, and then when he was in the hospital I thought, okay, he can get better. Maybe it was foolish to hope.

From that point on, there were many things felt deeply while watching the siblings navigate the death. No one tried to hurt anyone, but they kept managing.

You might think going through the personal effects quickly is doing them a favor, but maybe one of them needs that experience as a way to connect and grieve. A family member with more money might want to handle the financial part, but not comprehend the need of the others to pay an equal share. There can be deep disagreements about how to manage the funeral. There can be deep disagreements about what to do with a shared inheritance.

For every time that they hurt each other, they supported each other too. When they stood together at the funeral home, and sat together at the funeral, there was strength and support and unity. One of the best parts of watching the show is watching them strengthen those connections.

Other things have come up. It recently came out that Ernest had also been working as a janitor, which he had not told his children. The timing, with when and how it hit, hurt. Nova picked up his effects, consisting of work gloves and a picture of Blue. That created an image of her father killing himself with overwork to support his grandson while his son was in jail. A new revelation about a second will hurt her while she was still processing that.

I won't say that the show is the only thing that helped me write to my siblings; my aunt's death and a visit with the neurologist influenced that too. I do think it was the show that made me feel the importance of communicating now the most.

We have our own flaws too, and no one has committed to anything, but at least they have been asked. What will be of most comfort to you? Is there anything you want to say to Mom or do with her now? Anything you want to ask? Are there personal items you know you will want?

It was also a chance to prevent surprises. I assumed everyone would know the financial realities, but that was an assumption. That information is out there now. With all of us around, our mother has had less opportunities for secrets, but there can still always be things that someone knows but not everyone has heard. Let's get that out in the open now.

I do know that one of my mother's worst fears before was that we wouldn't stay close after she was gone. As tempting as some aspects of that could be, it's probably not best. Not falling that way will require communication.

We don't have an Aunt Vi to push us to work things out. We'll have to make it work on our own.

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