I refuse to call it a man crush. I’m pretty sure that I’ve watched everything that Aaron Sorkin has ever written. The Big Screen- Malice, A Few Good Men, The American President (which paved the way for the greatest TV series of all time.) Charlie Wilson’s War, The Social Network, Moneyball, and Steve Jobs. I’ve seen on the Small Screen Sports Night, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, The Newsroom, and…drumroll…The West Wing. As a matter of fact, I’m watching the series through for my third time now. Nothing compares. All that other stuff on television plays second fiddle to his Magnum Opus.
I love The West Wing, and all of Sorkin’s work, in part because of his idealism. He’s a romantic. He’s an optimist and in him I find a kindred spirit. He convinces me in every episode that the government, yes the government, can be a force of good and service and justice in the world. If Josiah Bartlet were running for president today, he’d win in a landslide- not that his competition this year lends itself to a convincing argument against his brilliance.
I’m a romantic. At least, I think that I am. Yet, at the same time- my life isn’t cooperating right now. Somehow in a romantic’s world, the boy always gets the girl, the cop always saves the day, good wins, evil loses, love prevails, Heath Ledger is knighted as Sir William in A Knight’s Tale, Meg and Tom fall in love in every single movie together, Sadness and Joy work together to give Riley this complex emotional and fulfilling life, and Jed Bartlet is president forever.
But that’s the movies. The difficulty with being a romantic in a difficult life is the temptation to deny reality. In fact, denial is part of the grieving process. So, I tip toe this line between romanticism and finding “the beauty in the sorriness of life.” I know how this ends. I drive by the nursing home where my mother-in-law died from this disease every day of my life. On the right side of the road is the nursing home, and on the left side of the road is the house that Tiffanni and I built together. Brayden was born there. My kids have a treehouse still there. We celebrated Christmases, Trick-r-treated, hunted Easter eggs, all three kids began Kindergarten there. We barbecued, hosted New Year’s Eve parties, we lived there. A tunnel of grief. Death on one side and nostalgia on the other.
But it’s the drive. I leave my new house where our beautiful children laugh, and play, and dream, and live. We have pecan trees, and chickens, and bees, and our Golden Retriever Fortinbras. And I make my way to the places that form my kids, and encourage them, and breathe dreams into them. I drive through the shadow of death every day, on my way from life and to life. From our home of safety and personality nurturing on our way to their school and our church, we pass through the tunnel of grief only to hope again.