There are so many things you don’t know.
There are so many things I keep private.
There are so many things I protect.
Some things, though, I share.
The season finale of The Big Bang Theory was filmed after my father died. My father had been in hospice for months. During that time, my bosses, castmates and crew gave me so much love and support. But because a sitcom schedule does not allow for cast members asking for time off because of parents in hospice, I continued to work. In between work hours, I spent as much time as possible with my father by his bed. I spent a lot of time singing to him and talking him through everything he was experiencing, and I also made sure he and my sons had time together that was meaningful and uplifting.
After my father died, I sat shiva—the Jewish ritual of mourning—for seven full days. I did not go anywhere except my home and my mother’s home. I did not go to work and I did not shower or change clothing, as is typical for mourners. I sat on low stools and did not prepare any food for myself, relying on the support of friends and family who did not have mourner status to feed me and make sure I stayed nourished.
After shiva ended, I got up and went to the cemetery to visit my father’s grave. And then I went back to work.
I don’t tell you this so that you think I am some mighty, pious, devoted saint. I tell you this because it’s important to remember that there are many things about actors that you don’t know–while we are also busy being a part of your life, there are other things, big things, going on in our lives that you don’t and may never know about.
I had to have an actor’s analysis of a script while my brain was still deep in the muddle of grief and shock and denial. I had to create emotion where I felt I had none left. I hardly remember those days of rehearsal. I hardly remember being at work at all in those post-shiva days.
I remember there was a curtain call, and I remember I felt like I didn’t deserve anyone looking at me or clapping for me or thinking I was at all special. Because I could not imagine existing anymore with my dad no longer on this earth.
The final episode was so powerful, I am told. The excitement and the surprise that Sheldon has a ring for Amy was so enticing…and people have asked me again and again all summer what’s going to happen next year, and will we stay broken up, and how was it to film that episode…
I want to say I don’t know. I can’t know. Whatever the writers want is what I want. I don’t remember.
My dad died.
My dad died. And the world stopped spinning. And then it started again. And I returned to the world of reality that for us actors is the world of make believe.
I lost myself after I got up from sitting shiva. I lost myself in the words of a character. I lost myself in the theater of this absurd life. I lost myself in my work because I have a job. Even when we grieve, we go on.
My dad died.
This is part of an ongoing series Mayim is writing about grieving her father’s death. Read all the posts here.