Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Potato Salad at the Memorial Service


If ever there was a day that I believed angels watch over me, and the universe is full of tiny moments--gifts--that I don’t always see, today was that day.

As many of you know I have been tweeting, status updating, and all around bemoaning the fact that CBS and Time Warner Cable have been in a financial dispute over rebroadcasting fees. That dispute led to the blackout of CBS and Showtime in the New York City area on August 2, 2013. As of Monday, September 2nd at 6pm that blackout ended, returning to me my much missed Dexter, but also returning to me The Young and the Restless.

Many of you know from reading my previous blog post "My Grandmother and Katherine Chancellor: Restless No More" that my grandmother watched Y&R from its beginning scene until her final day, November 15, 2004. Well, she didn’t actually watch it that day as she passed early in the morning, and if I’m honest she was in so much pain that the drugs administered to numb that pain kept her in and out of consciousness for the days leading up to the end. I don’t know what her final scene was, but you get the idea. She was more than a fan, she was a life long viewer. Since her death I have felt a connection to her through the presence of Katherine Chancellor, the Grande Dame of Genoa City, played for nearly 40 years by the enjoyably watchable Jeanne Cooper. When Jeanne passed away on May 8, 2013 Katherine too passed away. Not on that date of course, but when the same actor embodies a character for so long--bringing with her a nuanced sense of timing and style, wisdom and inspiration, strength and loyalty--even the thought of recasting the role is sacrilege. Thankfully the powers that be at The Young and the Restless knew this to be true. Their only option was to write the death of the beloved character.

That brings me back to the CBS blackout. As it happened, CBS and Time Warner Cable reached a deal just in time for Katherine Chancellor’s memorial service. It aired over the two day period of September 3-4. I watched both episodes on September 4th. To say that I cried is completely unnecessary. Of course I did. This fictional character that was a link to my grandmother was being memorialized. I thought of my grandmother, nine years in the ground, and how her grace and beauty, her voice and her style are now just memories--moments I recall in my mind, photographs where I can see her smile, video from Christmas morning where I can see her move and hear her voice.

I paused the episode and went to my kitchen for a glass of water. I was hungry so I decided to see if there was anything to eat in my refrigerator. Finding something edible inside was a surprise. Normally, it’s empty, but today there was a container of leftovers from my dinner on Sunday night--a container of potato salad. I grabbed it and went back to my sofa and the memorial service.

I was watching classic scenes of Y&R’s longest running super couple, those of Katherine and her frenemy, Jill, when I looked down, almost absentmindedly, ready to fork another piece of potato into my mouth, and realized I was eating potato salad. POTATO SALAD of all things!! I hadn't even recognized what I was doing when I got that small container out of the refrigerator. I mean I knew it was potato salad. I even said out loud (with some excitement because I’d forgotten it was there), “I can eat the potato salad,” but it hadn’t really sunk in what I was eating. You see, my grandmother made the best potato salad I’ve ever eaten. Everyone in the family ate it up...literally. It was the one thing we knew she would make for every family gathering. It was expected. You might say it was her signature dish. No one can really replicate it, try as we might. I was mid bite when I grasped I was eating potato salad while watching the memorial service for the character that linked me to my grandmother. It was in that moment I noticed her senior year picture was smiling at me from its shelf just to the right of the television. I lost all composure. I became a wet, sloppy mess. 

I had ordered that potato salad by accident on Sunday night. The unconscious moment in which I had chosen to eat it was so fitting. I don’t know if it was a bite with a particular taste or texture, but when it dawned on me, I sat the container down and wept. She was here with me. Her picture was smiling at me. You might say that I had one more moment of watching The Young and the Restless with my grandmother. 

I miss her. I don’t dwell on it, but there are random moments where I wish I could talk to her. Today, I called my mom and told her what had happened. I’m a sentimental fool and this moment was so poignant to me that many of the tears I shed along with those onscreen crying over Katherine were tears I was again shedding for my grandmother. 

Many things in this world remind me of her, but good potato salad and The Young and the Restless take me back to her house like nothing else. I love you, Gran. Thank you for the small moment we shared today. I’m so thankful my eyes were open.