When I was five, the Brady Bunch aired on TV. I watched the Brady Bunch, and not understanding that the show was produced for TV, I was convinced that my family was also being watched by other families. I thought I was on TV all the time. I stood up straighter and tried to walk like Jan Brady, straight and deliberate. Jan was a middle child and so was I, so of course, I had to be like Jan. I looked all over our house for cameras until my sister Kim caught me and, after a brief spurt of ridicule and laughter, explained to me the difference between TV and real life.
Of course, I understood the difference between TV and real life: I knew cartoons weren't real. And I knew the Brady Bunch were on TV, but unlike any show I had watched before, this seemed real--a family in situ. I guess I was anticipating reality television. I thought that if that family could be on tv, my family could too. I remember how it felt to believe that I was being watched.
In college psychology, we discussed the experimental bias that occurs when subjects know they are part of an experiment, and I flashed back to how it felt to "be on TV" for a week. It's on my mind this week because of mom and the trouble she has distinguishing between real and TV. I have to be careful about what kind of TV mom watches. Even Disney animated movies can cause her distress. I try to remember when she is confused, how it felt to believe with my whole heart that my family was on tv. I don't want her to feel afraid or watched, when I can help her. And I know she knows the difference between tv and real, just sometimes, the files in her brain mix up the things she is genuinely worried about, with the ones in her "recents" file.
This weekend, Florence Henderson died. The news caused mom great distress. She is worried about dying. She tells me all the time that she is in great health and there is nothing wrong with her, but she doesn't believe it. She says it defiantly, daring me to disagree. She also always wants to know how old every one was when they died, and if she is older than the person who dies, she says, "well, they weren't very old." This weekend, when she found out that Florence Henderson died unexpectedly at 82, she became convinced that she would die at 82 also. "I guess I don't have that long, I'm already 80."
To change the subject, I asked her what was on her Bucket List. I had to explain that a bucket list was all the things you want to do before you "kick the bucket." She sat back and thought awhile, then said. "I have already done so much more than I imagined I would when I was a kid in IdaMay.
I moved out here and got a job and learned to drive. I had 4 kids, I went to school and learned to cut hair. I have been to Hawaii on an airplane, and to Alaska on a cruise... I can't think of anything I need to do yet. I guess I can kick the bucket anytime."
I laughed, and said "Oh no you can't." I hugged her up hard and said, "you have some great grand kids to see born and some dancing to do, you have songs to sing and ice cream to eat."
She said "we have ice cream?" and headed off to the fridge.