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I Don't Want What You Want
October 5, 2005
by Tony Zizza

I need to get this out of the way. Right here. Right now. ER is the best television show that is living and breathing in America's living room. For eleven years, an extremely diverse cast of characters has made us think about an even more diverse range of life topics. Random violence. Heroic surgeries. Death. Ritalin. Blood. Ethics. Families.

Families? Yes, families. Particularly, potential step families. In my view, the success or failure of a stepfamily is a strong dynamic in popular American culture. Sure, tired stereotypes of both stepfathers and stepmothers run amok. However, the prevailing consensus in our culture seems to be that step families are doomed to fail even before they start.

This is where ER comes in. I know, it sounds wierd. The potential for a stepfamily to succeed this year on ER is very important. We have always been told that it is actually biological mothers who are the "behind the scenes" backbone of any family. They stand as the omnipotent listener, organizer, and supporter. Dear ole Dad is just a financial provider, a walking wallet if you will, who ought to know his place. However, there comes a time in a man's life when he has to see things for what they are and have been, far more than how he thinks they should be and ought to be.

With this in mind, I want you to meet the following three key ER characters. First, Dr. Luka Kovac. He is an attending physician at Cook County General Hospital in Chicago. Second, Sam Taggart. She is a nurse at the same hospital. Not to mention, Dr. Kovac's girlfriend. Third, Alex Taggart. He is Sam's twelve year old son. He has developed a bond with Dr. Kovac. Sam had Alex when she was just fifteen years old. For some reason, Dr. Kovac is very attracted to Sam. It's more than just the sex, and that they work together. There's a rich potential for much more. A marriage. A stepfamily. A fresh start.

Unfortunately, Sam doesn't really see the big picture. Despite the fact Alex's biological father is in prison for robbery, Sam rejects Dr. Kovac as a potential husband, and potential stepfather for her often troubled son. This is insane. I have to wonder out loud if this is the typical mindset of a woman who has a child out of wedlock at an early age. Dr. Kovac lost his family in Croatia. He wants that family feeling again. Give him credit because he acknowledges the love Alex has for his father. Dr. Kovac doesn't want (like most stepfathers) to replace a child's biological father. There is just the desire on the part of someone like Dr. Kovac to have a real place in the life of a child.

Again, the word insane doesn't even begin to describe the actions on the part of Sam. She knows that staring her and Alex right in the face is a man and a life that will make up a successful stepfamily. No more running. No more barely making it from one paycheck to the next. No more living in the past. After all, everyone has a past. Get over it long enough to get on what's good right in front of you!

I'll never forget the ER episode that aired on September 22, 2005. As always, Dr. Kovac dropped everything to come to the aid of Sam. Alex ran away in search of his father. His father was actually in prison. Sam didn't tell Alex, so Alex thinks he's in Colorado waiting for him. They find Alex. Towards the end of the episode, Alex visits his father in prison. As always, Dr. Kovac is okay with this. Again, he just want a real place to put all of his love and effort.

Sam is both defensive and stubborn. What else is new? She's still not satisfied, let alone happy. Despite finding her son, there's the familiar edge. Dr. Kovac can easily see this. He asks her in so many words, "What about us?" Dr. Kovac wants so much to do a great thing and marry Sam. He would then become an official stepfather! A family man. What's wrong with this? Why can't we say everything is in fact right about it?

Blame the biological mother. You heard me. Blame Sam Taggart. Blame her for being the stubborn and defensive mother she has always been, and always will be. Perhaps at times she was just clever in masking her shallow self. My jaw dropped to the floor with a loud thud with how she responded to Dr. Kovac. After all that Dr. Kovac had emotionally and physically done for Sam and Alex, all Sam could mutter to Dr. Kovac as she cruelly walked away was, "I don't want what you want."

If I had the power, I would have leaped into my television screen and shook Sam silly until she came to her senses. I would have said, "How can you do this to Alex?" "Why are you so petrified of giving of yourself to a family?" "Why are you forcing Alex to live in the past without really moving forward?" "How can you use a good man like Dr. Kovac without a second thought?" And finally, "Why won't you allow Alex to have a stepfather when that is what he needs?"

So, it goes around and around and around. When the potential for a stepfamily is squashed, there are plenty of heartaches and regrets to go around. Sometimes it's easy to think things should be a certain way. Sometimes you don't realize who someone is until all the personality layers have come off. Sometimes you fail to answer the never-ending question your gut keeps asking, "What are you doing?"

ER may just be a television show that's been on the air for eleven years, but it's much more than that. This year, you can't have any sympathy for a character like Sam Taggart. She destroys everything that is good. By having the sheer audacity to tell Dr. Kovac, "I don't want what you want", she is basically admitting she is a user. Not to mention, a snake.

If Dr. Kovac (or anyone in his shoes) understands at the deepest level what Sam is saying, they have an incredibly serious choice to make. Stay or go. If Dr. Kovac chooses to stay, he runs the risk of seeing that nothing changes. If Dr. Kovac chooses to go, it's not like he (or anyone in his shoes) is actually walking away. After all, you can't walk away from something you never honestly had in the first place. Especially, when the one person who could make a successful stepfamily shine tells you in so many words, "I don't want what you want."

Think about it.

Zizza is a freelance writer based in the Atlanta area. He writes frequently about blended families. Zizza serves as Vice President for the State of Georgia for the non-profit organization, Parents For Label and Drug Free Education. Read Zizza's "Think Twice" column at: http://www.ablechild.org/newsarchive.htm

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