Friday, April 3, 2009

Goodbye, ER

Last night Jason and I found ourselves doing something we haven't done in years. We had the windows open and were a little afraid the neighbors might hear, but we were enjoying ourselves so much it didn't matter. It was just as good as we remembered.

Of course I am talking about watching ER.

ER used to be never-miss TV. I didn't jump on the bandwagon immediately; my mom had gotten me hooked on Chicago Hope during my visits home. But my senior year in college, when I had a TV in my dorm room for the first time in my college career and my roommate was a dedicated ER watcher, I got hooked. Not so much for George Clooney, though that didn't hurt (I have had a crush on Anthony Edwards since Top Gun; I love the tall, thin, responsible, sensitive guys). I loved the catharsis.

ER was one of those shows in the mid- to late-90s that took great pride in making people sob at least once a season. Between Party of Five, Ally McBeal, and ER, I kept Kleenex in business between 1995 and 2000. If I had had a bad week (which, as a student teacher and later a "real" teacher, was often) I could always turn to NBC at 10 on Thursday night and have a good, healing cry.

Watching the retrospective before the finale last night was like reliving my 20s. Jason and I recounted where we were in our lives during some of those memorable moments; some episodes we remembered talking on the phone through our first year teaching when he lived in Falmouth and I was in Erlanger; some we watched together our first year of marriage in Falmouth; others we remembered watching in Lexington or in our apartment in Fort Mitchell. We went through a lot of changes those first years of our adult lives; ER was a constant, a touchstone we could come back to one night a week.

When Mark Greene died, I stopped watching. Dr. Greene had always been the character I most loved and most related to, and I felt ER lost its heart when he passed away. I was also pregnant with Ainsley when that devastating episode aired, and I cried so hard I thought my heart (and my water) would break. The catharsis suddenly was too much.

When I became a mom, I couldn't stomach television death. ER has always killed off children, and though I know this happens in real emergency rooms every day, I had no desire to watch that every week and add to the things I had to worry about happening to my child. I tried to pick it up again when I was going through my own medical crisis, but ER provides about as much comfort and hope to cancer patients as it does to new moms.

So last night, even though I haven't watched a new episode from start to finish in six years, and even though I only have a passing knowledge of the current characters and story lines, I had to see how it all ended. And I wasn't disappointed. I even teared up a little when we learned that that young perspective medical student who looked so familiar was no other than Mark's daughter, Rachel.

If they had only played that Hawaiian version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, it would have been just like old times.

Did any of you watch the finale last night? Have you always been an ER watcher? What is your favorite moment from the series?

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