I’ve been watching the DVDs of the former TV series, “Everwood.”  I
became interested in this show too late to watch it live on the WB, but
once I learned it revolved around a single dad raising kids after his
wife and their mother dies, I figured I could learn something from it. 
(Plus it’s just really fun to tell people that I’m watching a TV series for

The episode I watched yesterday had two shining examples of what I
believe is a very important factor in building stepfamily (or any family) relationships:
Being authentic and honest.  Take it from me, who learned this slowly
– it’s much better to show your stepfamily members who you really
are in small doses than to flood them with who you think you’re
supposed to be.

In the series, Andy Brown is a former, famous, New York City
neurosurgeon who moves his family to small Everwood, Colorado after
his wife’s death.  He becomes a general practitioner in Everwood
(competing with the established family doctor), and offers his services
for free.

Andy is slogging through a challenging relationship with his fifteen-
year-old son Ephraim, while he is generally forgiven and overtly loved
by his younger daughter Delia. 

In this episode, Andy’s admin assistant, Edna, who is the mother of
the other doctor (that’s a whole separate post :-), is illogically distraught
when she finds out that a town landmark called the Kissing Bridge is
aging beyond repair and will be destroyed by the town.  Her husband
(she is remarried after her first husband’s death) notices her pain and
tries to console her, but she remains extremely grouchy. 

When she bites off the head of one of the practice’s patients, Dr. Andy
Brown confronts her (in that nice way that he has) and gently gives
her permission to explain what’s wrong.  She spills the beans:  Her
first husband and she shared their first kiss on that bridge, and he
proposed to her there as well.  She thought she was “over” her first
husband’s death, but the impending destruction of the bridge brought
up what we would call “regrief:” a new cycle of grieving that comes on
without warning, often triggered by a life event.

Edna proceeds to tell her husband why she’d been feeling so bad. 
But she takes her newfound honesty one step better:  she gets her
son (the established doctor in town) and brings him through the woods
within sight of the Kissing Bridge.  As they stare at it together, she
tells her story, which he’s never heard before, and adds the detail that
once she knew she was pregnant with him, she took her husband to
the Kissing Bridge to share the news.  She tells her son that even
though she remarried, the Kissing Bridge reminds her that her feelings
for his dad are long from forgotten.

Then, in a classic scene, she reaches for a small detonating device
she’d placed in the trees, and blows up the bridge herself.  Her son
yells, “WHAT are you doing?”  And she says, “Grieving.”

I LOVE this.  Lessons for stepfamilies?  One, sharing your heart will
almost always advance even a difficult relationship…even if the other
person doesn’t show it right away.  Author Stephen Covey calls this
making deposits in the emotional bank account.  Over time, the
deposits will grow into something significant.  Two, be sensitive to the
many ways and times your family members will grieve and regrieve
their losses.  This is not easy, and believe me, I know.  But your
patience, compassion, or simply space can be one of the biggest gifts
you give your stepfamily members.

The same lessons are reinforced through a different scene in the same
episode.  An STD epidemic has hit the high school in Everwood, and Dr.
Brown would like to help prevent further occurrences by helping
educate the young population on safe sex. He and the other doctor
team up to speak at a school assembly. His son Ephraim is mortified,
and doesn’t even attend school that day.  In fact, he leaves Everwood
and accompanies his friend Amy on a mission in Denver that’s
important to her.  They miss the last bus home and then have to be
rescued by their parents.

Ephraim comes into the den the next evening to tell his dad he’s sorry
he made him worry.  Andy delivers his consequences, and then
explains why it was so important to him to give the public assembly at
school.  Andy had actually been part of the treatment of one of the
early cases of teenage death from AIDS in New York City, even before
the disease had a name.

Ephraim asks, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?” and Andy replies
with one of the most real statements I’ve heard from a TV character in
an evening drama:  “I have no idea how to get your attention….Every
day, you either hate me a lot, still hate me, or just hate me.”  His
point was, he didn’t have a lot of openings by which to talk about
deeper issues with his son. 
By the end of the conversation, Andy asks
Ephraim to tell him when he is doing the right thing as a dad, so he’ll
learn more about his son.  Ephraim agrees.

Maybe we’ll reveal our hearts and not even get this much yield from a
teenage child or stepchild.  But watching these interactions, however
dramatized, reminds me that every little step toward authenticity

Mama J (Diane Fromme) is a writer, parent, and stepparent located in
Northern Colorado.  For more information on her stepparenting book,
go to


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