Last night’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy, Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, dealt with some of the basic questions of science and faith confronted by all of us in the 21st century. Is there a God or a Santa or some guiding force in the universe, or is our only source of comfort our own power to do good? Pretty basic questions that really speak to how each of us define our experience as people.
The episode did a fair job or framing the general issue of faith in terms of the show’s romantic relationships. It worked better than some of the other episodes this year, which all follow the same formula: disparate storylines sum up nicely into one, over-arching epiphany from Meredith Grey. I thought, for all the talk of religion and Christmas, this episode really had something to say.
My main reason for posting, though, deals with the father of the Chrismukkah/Hannamas family. His brain injury and resulting surgery left him (albeit briefly) in a state where his personality was not his own. I can completely relate to this situation.
During the Christmas of 1991 my maternal grandfather, Jack Strand, suffered a massive seizure as the result of a golfball-sized brain tumor. Upon removal of the tumor, which sat just above and behind one of his eyes, he was never the same person. Sure, he had full motor skills and speech, but he was not my grandfather. His voice sounded different, his eyes were distant like we were all somehow strangers and his manner with us was harsher.
The worst part? He knew something was wrong, but he couldn’t do anything about it. When he spoke to us or hugged and kissed us you felt this terrible sadness in him. A kind of a longing he had for a person he couldn’t quite remember or become. It was an immensely sad time in my life. When he passed away exactly one week before my sixteenth birthday, I was very relieved that he would finally find himself someplace better.
So the episode spoke to me on a level that probably missed a few other folks. Every Christmas I think about the fact that I lost my grandfather even though he lived some 10 months after his operation. He was gone long before he passed.
Grey’s Anatomy is quickly becoming our second favorite show to Lost because they can mix humor and drama so deftly and continually speak to universal themes in a very relatable (if very flawed) human voice. These characters are as close to individuals and actual people as I’ve seen on TV in a while.
Thanks, Grey’s Anatomy, for not condescending to me this Christmas season. I don’t know that I’m any more or less “faithful” today than I was last night, but I do have faith that I enjoy your show.