No Matter What

by:  Staci Stallings

As I told you in a recent post, I’ve been watching a lot of old “Family Ties” episodes recently.  Compared with what’s on television now, they are priceless.

One of the storylines I’ve been most fascinated with is the relationship between Alex and Ellen.  For those who don’t know, Michael J. Fox, who plays Alex, met his future wife Tracy Pollen, who plays Ellen on the show.  So much of what we are seeing in these episodes was the two of them as they met and fell in love not just in the storyline but for real.

It’s fascinating because you can see in his eyes how taken with her he is.  When she walks in a room, his eyes light up.  Of course at the time you could have written it off as good acting skills, but now…?

You see what makes their story particularly fascinating to me is that not only do we get to see them fall in love on camera, it’s what happened after these episodes were shot that is an incredible testament to their love.

I don’t know how much you know about Michael J. Fox but after being on this sit-com through the 80’s and marrying Tracy, he landed a job on Spin City.  However, within just a few years of beginning that sit-com and life with Tracy, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.  Now, Michael is only a few years older than me.  I remember him well from the sit-coms and the movies he’s been in.  He was always fascinating to me because he could play the buttoned-down serious guy and the wacky do-anything-for-a-laugh guy with equal ease and grace.

But the Parkinson’s stole his ability to even control his own movements.  After it was first announced, he bravely pressed on through filming Spin City, but at some point it simply became too much, and he was forced to quit.

I’ll be honest.  I really can’t imagine what those days all the way up to today must be like.  Of course, I’m sure he has a great medical team and they are able to mitigate and control some of the illness, but the strength and grace the two of them exhibit in the face of this is truly an inspiration to me.

I read an article on them recently.  They now have four kids and are still together.

Think about that.  In Hollywood some marriages don’t last a month.  Yet, through changes and challenges that would test the toughest of people, theirs has survived.  When they married, they had the world at their feet.  Who could have known?  Who could have predicted how quickly that would change?

Tracy said that they have the same sense of humor–a fact most evident even in those early episodes, and she credits being able to laugh about their situation with holding them together.

Most everyone who gets married takes a vow “for better or for worse,” but I wonder how many really mean that vow.  I wonder, even about myself sometimes, “Do I have what it takes ‘for better or for worse’?” no matter what?

Part of me wants to believe I do.  Part of me hopes I’m never tested like that because part of me is not so sure.

I do know this:  These two are an inspiration to me.  Not because they fell in love, but because they stayed in love–no matter what.  Somehow, they have made it work even when doing so must have been an enormous challenge.

So thanks, Michael and Tracy, for showing us all that ‘for better or worse’ can be done… even today, even in Hollywood, even under extremely difficult circumstances.  You all are two of my heroes.


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