I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Jason Seaver.
When the actor who portrayed him, Alan Thicke, died unexpectedly on Tuesday, I read about Growing Pains, an ’80s TV show I had never watched.
I spent a big chunk of the ’80s as a very young man in Austria. I did not speak English a whole lot, let alone, in the pre-Youtube era, watch any shows in the language. A guilty pleasure during that time was escaping into Der Denver-Clan, to many people known as Dynasty. When I returned to the United States, I was shocked to hear Joan Collins speaking English. I much preferred her German voice!
While I’m making light of my coming into adulthood in the ’80s, there was a bit of darkness. While I had the good luck to receive a Fulbright scholarship, and later worked in an embassy and as a freelance journalist, I was trying to come to terms with my sexuality in a decade where most people, including myself, didn’t know enough about and were terrified of AIDS. I was wanting to prove to my family, friends, and me that I was not really gay. Looking back, I wish I had accepted it earlier, but I had a dream about starting my own family some day, and as a gay man back then, I did not see how that would have been possible.
Watching Growing Pains would have been wonderful escapism. Jason Seaver was the dream father and dreamy! He was selfless, even-tempered, wise without knowing it all, firm but vulnerable. In one of many tributes about Alan Thicke, whose voice I also have never heard, I read that he was one of the all-time great TV dads, that “he cared enough to be there for all of it — rain or shine.”
Last night I went to bed early and dismayed. My gorgeous daughter who means the world to me rejected me as a father for a few very important minutes. I tried to be Jason Seaver, wise and caring, warm and reassuring, able to find the right answer. I could not.
Of course life is not always wonderfully scripted nor is it a sitcom although it feels that way sometimes. Ellen and I embraced this morning before I walked two miles to work to process the past 14 hours. (I am a Quaker after all!). My conclusion about an evening with my family that took an unexpected turn: Hang in there, rain or shine.