July 20, 2004

I'm broken!  It's true. 

Anyone who reads my Nonsoapy Journal knows that I cry at the drop of a hat.  A song.  A Pepsi commercial.  A memory.  The wind on my face.  A poignant episode of "Little House on the Prairie."  ("Michael Landon, I LOVE YOU, why did you DIIIIIIIEEEE?"  *sniff*)

Anything can make me cry a river.  I cry the good cry, not the ugly cry.  The ugly cry makes your face scrunch up like Heather Tom's and your eyes get all puffy and swollen and you break blood vessels in your cheeks and have hitchy things in your throat.  The good cry is when the tears slip from your eyes unbidden  in streams and you look like you just saw the Virgin of Guadalupe or something.  It's a pretty cry, a graceful cry. 

So I'm no stranger to crying.  I've done the ugly cry more times than I can count, but not for a couple of years now.  It takes a lot to get me to the ugly cry, but the pretty cry is a near daily occurrence.

I started noticing the problem, I think, when Viki got Ben's heart on OLTL.   As a May-December wife (whose May-December is barely even on the same calendar year) myself, I had immense appreciation for Ben and Viki's romance.  I loved the way it started and I thought Mark Derwin was absolutely darling.  I could see why Viki was captivated and the little bit of intrigue thrown into the story gave it flavor.  I forgave them the whole "Ben and Blondie on the road as badass bikers" junk and I forgave that in order to have any legitimacy as a character at the time, Ben was forced to be related to the reigning dynasty on OLTL at the time, the dreaded Rappaports.  I loved that Ben was Asa and Renee's son and I was really sad when Ben was shot and left languishing in a coma for a year or so while Mark Derwin did "Life With Bonnie." 

It's not a lack of atmosphere.  When Viki was at death's door, no efforts were spared to make her look a quarter inch for dancing with the reaper.  She looked BAD.  The last time I remembered seeing someone look that sick was when Liza had her brain tumor and really sickened out for the scenes.  I'm attached to Viki not so much for her character, which waxes far too deeply into the holier-than-thou good girl image that gives me the willies, but more for her amazing tenure on the show.  I am of the few who remember Meredith and Larry (who now is dragged from the crypt solely for his occasional medical opinion), Vinnie and Wanda, Joe Riley and Marco Dane (talk about two ends of the spectrum there).  Like Dr Hardy on GH, Viki is the key to OLTL's past and for that, I cherish the character.  For those who have never experienced death up close and personal, I have to say that the loss is devastating not just because the PERSON is no longer there, but their validation of your memories is also gone away.  Memories are a skitterish, subjective thing and when you can reminisce with someone who shared your experiences, their recollected accounts combine with your own, creating a composite memory that makes your own memories more full and real.  When you have memories and all of the people who shared them are gone, somehow, those treasured memories are more fragile and ethereal.  Humans require validation for our memories to remain in the corporal state.  Viki holds my OLTL memories.  No one else on the show predates 1979 (when Phil Carey came on board as Asa). 

Seeing Viki looking so far gone had an effect on me, but I didn't cry.  Bree Williamson even cried, and I didn't.  When Erika Slezak was acting her heart out knowing Ben was actually gone (let's face it, this is one death from which it will be difficult to return without a great deal of explaining) moved me, but I didn't cry.

Babies are a major weakness of mine, mainly because I have such a tremendous fear of losing one of my own children.  No, it's not a Dr Phil moment of obsessive hovering to the point of frightening the kiddos, but it's the one thought that haunts me.  The baby stories kill me and when Leora died on AMC, I was blubbering like crazy.

BJ's heart?  Fuhgetaboudit.  I was gone.  The last time I saw the flashback of it, likely at the 25th or 40th GH anniversary (although if I remember correctly, there were very few flashbacks on the 40th) I was crying again.   Heck, even when Bobbie thought Carly was dead (left), I was crying right along with her.  I didn't even like Carly OR Bobbie then, but Bobbie loss of a second daughter, tore my own heart out. 

When Jason came to the Quartermaine mansion to hand Michael over to AJ, refused to hand him to AJ and handed him to Carly instead, who had married AJ to "ruin" him and create, in Carly's bizarre theory, a life for her, Michael and Jason, I was trashed.  I even did the ugly cry for that one.

So why is it that when Kelly's baby died on OLTL and she was crying her heart out, I wasn't even moved?  When babies were switched around like chess pieces on AMC, I didn't feel a thing.  Eden Riegel was moving and convincing as she grieved Miranda, but I was busy thinking about what a bitch (again) Erica was for abandoning her daughter during this time.  Babies are my weak spot and nothing in this whole story has given me even a flutter.  Krystal by the river bank, drawling her angst while clutching the teddy bear?  Nope.  Babe gaining full recognition that the baby she has is Bianca's and making the decision to keep her anyway?  Nope.  I felt sterile and devoid of emotion.

With great anticipation of a cleansing cry and release of emotion, I endured the month's delay between Anna Lee's death and the funeral of Lila.  It had been a long time since I had a good ol' soap cry and this one was a blue ribbon guarantee for a flood of tears.

Since I live on the West Coast, I was able to rev up by reading the responses of fans in other time zones prior to the airing I could see.  They were all favorable and I was warned by many to shore up with a few boxes of tissues.

I waited...

...and waited.

I felt a bit of a tug when Ned choked up holding Brooke.  I felt a sniggle when Alan fell apart in the hospital corridor and thought it was on its way, like a tickle of a pre-sneeze before the big cleansing blow comes.  When Edward touched Jason's face, when Edward went to Lila's garden... all of them tickled, but the big sneeze/cry never came.

I adored Anna Lee and few fans know that while she was a gracious, lovely lady, she was the epitome of a bawdy broad.  She had a raucous, wry sense of humor and loved men.  She gave Stuart Damon a light switch cover with a man on it that was constructed in such a way that the flipped switch let you know the degree of the man's arousal.  Let's just say that Mr Man was happiest when the  light was on.  She also gave him a calendar of dirty jokes each year for Christmas and he referred to her as "The Nymphomaniac of Port Charles."  She was what I aspire to be.

I was sad when I heard she died, but I was not surprised.  She was 91 and had been in ill health on many levels for quite some time, so we all knew it was coming.  I read all of the wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth on the message boards and in my e-mails, people who were wholly distraught by the loss.  Tony Randall died around the same time at the age of 84.  People were deeply saddened by his death.  I was thinking about the child he'd fathered at the age of 78 who would barely know his dad.  It still surprises me when people are shocked, devastated and downright angry when someone dies after living a long, productive and vital life.  My father was 51 when he died.  My mother was 60.  Now THAT was a surprise.  I pray I live as long and as well as Ms Lee did and that I meet death with such grace and dignity.  It may be short-sighted to predict, but I think I'll be ready by then.  My 90's ought to do it well.  If course, I might change my mind along about my 89th birthday.

What I'm getting at is that when Anna Lee died, I toasted her.  I celebrated her.  I thanked her for being here, but I wasn't devastated.

I was prepared to be devastated over the loss of LILA.  Anna Lee I admired from afar for her reputation and personality, but I didn't know her, really.  Lila was an old friend from years and years back and I would miss her onscreen.

The first day of "everyone on GH learns about Lila's death" was poignant, but I didn't cry.  I didn't even tear up.  As the days followed and we moved into the memorial service and rather than getting closer to an emotional release and mourning, I seemed to move further away.  It was fast becoming, for me, the Emily Quartermaine show.  She was everywhere and her omnipresence was distracting to me.  I know it's because she's "The New Lila," but I just couldn't feel it.  It was capped when Jason went toward the podium to speak, paused and collected himself, his grief palpable, and before he could continue, Emily came forward, touched his arm, dismissed him and went up to speak. 

Maybe it's just a case of too many new faces.  Yet, I watched Jane Elliot's performance, which everyone else seemed to adore (and I'm very, very happy for them!), but to me, it looked like she was chewing up the scenery.  I just couldn't feel the authenticity of it and I felt that Tracy would grieve in private and remain stoic, sarcastic and cold in public.  I respect that others feel differently, but that's just my own subjective take on Tracy.  I could see her letting her guard down possibly around Edward, but I can't imagine her displaying weakness before the entire family.  Even in her greatest grief, I think she'd be paranoid that the weakness would be (sooner or later) exploited or would be wondering how she could take advantage of the situation.  The only moment I could see that seemed "real Tracy" to me was when she chastised the masses for the hypocrisy of acting like a family because someone died.    People, as a rule, long to see the vulnerability in an otherwise strong character. 

I'm not convinced it was a matter of all of the new faces and notable absences, but think about it:  New Edward (not that Jed Allan isn't doing an incredible job because he is), New Emily, New Brook, New Lois, Recent Dillon, No AJ, No Audrey, No Stella, No Reginald... Where were the people who REALLY knew, understood and loved Lila?

The real hypocrisy I saw was in Felicia presenting Edward with Lila's uncompleted memwahs.  "Here is what I've done of Lila's memwahs.  I know it meant a lot to her, but I've been far, far too busy over the past three years to finish this stuff.  Do you recall how relentless I was in pursuing the mystery of the murder of Elliot Thompson?  Wasn't it wonderful how I didn't let Lila's fervent requests deter me from breaking into your private home on Oyster Bay and stealing her love letters?  *chuckle*  That other Edward must have begged me a hundred times to give up on the quest for the truth, but aren't you glad I was undaunted!  *Insert patented Felicia worried scrunch*  I still wonder if I should have gone to the police with the truth.  I'm sure Lila would have felt better having everything out in the open.  Maybe it's not too late...  Anyway, here is the little bit of work I did manage to get done on the memwahs.  I wonder why Ned never paid me?  I'm going to have to look into that.  Anyway, enjoy!"


Am I just too embittered?  I don't think so.  I mean, I still quite enjoy the show, even though it's been in a slump for a while.  Is it too many new faces?  Missing old faces that are still around?  Would I have felt differently had I watched John Ingle grieve for Lila?  Was this the final and most blatant admission that AJ is persona non gratis?  Not even any flash of him in the montage.  Other than a brief mention by Tracy of him thieving the money, he's nonexistent.  Is it too many babies sacrificed to the killer staircases of Port Charles?  I really don't know what thwarted my best efforts at grief, but through Lila's death and memorial, I didn't cry, therefore, I must be broken.

I'm fully jealous of people who felt the tears roll and went through box after box of tissues.  Me?  I tickled, but I never sneezed.

But allow me to say:

Ms Lee, you were a Diva in the truest and grandest sense, all the way to the end.  If I can live and love and feel as fully and magnanimously as you did, I will happily go into that darkest night at 91 feeling at peace and oh so loved.  Thank you for sharing your time and talent with us and for giving our Lila life.  Cheers.


As a bit of a PS:

Although she doesn't quite go into the "good cry" and the "ugly cry," Iyanla Vanzant says this about tears in her wonderful book Yesterday, I Cried.

Angry tears spill forth from the outside corner of the eye, making them easier to wipe away as they come at unexpected moments and inappropriate times. They originate in the ego - the part of our being that presents to the world who we think we are. Angry tears create heat and stiffness in the body, because when we are angry, we usually don't know how to express what we feel. We definitely don't want anyone to know when we are angry, because anger is not acceptable or polite. Rather than display anger, we hold back, and the tears rage forth, shattering our self-image. More important, angry tears reveal to those around us our vulnerabilities. This, we believe, is not a wise thing to do.

Sad tears spill forth from the inside corner of the eye, finding their way across our nose, cheeks, and lips. For some reason we always lick sad tears. We know that they are salty, and the things that bring them forth are usually the bitter experiences in life. Sad tears come from the heart. They usually bring a bending of the shoulders and a drooping of the head.

Frightened tears take up the entire eye, clouding our vision, as fear will do. When we are frightened, we cannot see or think. Frightened tears are usually big tears that well up in the eye. They spill over the whole face. Frightened tears come from the soles of the feet. They shoot through the body and create trembling or shaking.

Then there are shame-filled tears, which fall when we are alone with our thoughts and feelings. Shame-filled tears come when we're judging ourselves, criticizing ourselves, or beating up on ourselves for something purely human that we have done yet can't explain to ourselves or to others. Shame-filled tears come from the pit of the stomach and usually cause us to bend over - not in pain, but in anguish.

Combination tears are the worst tears of all. They are filled with anger and sadness, with fear and shame. They have a devastating effect on the body, bringing the stiffness of anger, the drooping of sadness, the trembling of fear, and the bending of shame. They make you cold when you are hot. They make you tremble when you are trying to keep still. Most of all, they make you nauseated.

Many of us have been able to float on our tears to a new and better understanding of ourselves and the things we have experienced in life. Through our tears, we get in touch with those experiences that we have forgotten, hidden, or buried away in the pit of our souls.

Yesterday, I cried for the woman that I wanted to be. Today, I cry in celebration of her birth. Yesterday, I cried for the little girl in me who was not loved or wanted. Today, I cry as she dances around my heart in celebration of herself. I pray that your yesterday tears will be wiped, that you will find the courage to celebrate yourself and the lessons you have lived through, grown through, and learned through. The lessons that have brought you to a deeper realization of yourself, of the child within you, and of the constant mercy and grace of God.