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Dallas and Dad



OK, so, go ahead a laugh. I admit to getting a little misty-eyed during last night's episode of Dallas. It was the send-off for JR Ewing, who'd been shot to death last week. Here we witnessed his family flying to Mexico to view his body, his memorial service, funeral, and then some letters he'd sent from beyond the grave. In most every article I'd read before tuning-in last night, there had been warnings that we'd be crying. That's the surest way to make me not cry.

And yet...

Perhaps it wasn't so much the intricacies of the plot as what you bring to it that matters. In this case, I rather unwittingly brought the death of my father to the proceedings. When JR's son, John Ross, choked-up and at first refused to leave his father's body in Mexico, I remembered leaving my dad's funeral that day in August of 1997, pleading through tears that we couldn't leave him there, because in life Lewis had never liked to be alone.

Perhaps it was JR's flag-draped coffin (by the way, what branch of service was he supposed to have been in)? Dad's coffin had had the flag, as well, a remnant of his service in the Marines during Vietnam. Perhaps it was Sue Ellen's comment to Gary about feeling alone around so many people? After dad's funeral, everyone went back to the home he'd shared with his wife and young son, and I couldn't stand to be around anyone at that time. I felt surrounded and alone.

Then there was John Ross, sitting alone after everyone else had left the graveside service (except for his cousin Christopher, who tried extending a warm hand of solace). There I was, standing over dad's open coffin after the visitation had ended, and most everyone had left. My cousin Heather and uncle Jim each came back inside the chapel, put their hands on my shoulder, and attempted some sort of comfort.

I've gotta hand it to Dallas showrunner Cynthia Cidre: JR Ewing's funereal episode was well-written (by Dallas standards, anyway). But, as in most things in the art world, it was enhanced by what each viewer was able to bring to the table. That's the beauty in a book, or television show, or movie: We can both learn from and relate to them, based on on our life experience. Who'da thunk a nighttime soap would have stirred such emotions?

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