When my mother came to the United States at the age of 12, she could not speak A WORD OF ENGLISH. Guess who taught her? Yep, you guessed it, SOAPS!!! She watched Search For Tomorrow, Dark Shadows and Guiding Light, but it was General Hospital that made her a bona fide soap fan. One of my favorite memories with my mother was sitting on our green shaggy 70s-style rug on a cold November afternoon and watching Luke and Laura tie the knot as Helena Cassadine (a.k.a. the incomparable Elizabeth Taylor) cursed the star-crossed lovers from afar. I remember being amazed that Liz was even on GH, but my mom said "Honey, she's a GH fan!!! EVERYONE is a GH fan". Well, maybe not everyone was, but I think she wanted to believe that people could at least appreciate the amazing stories that soaps produced on a daily basis. My mom was crushed when Genie Francis departed the show in 1981 and was so happy to hear she would return in late 1983. She died two weeks before Francis returned and Luke and Laura were finally reunited. When Luke and Laura embraced in the gardens of the mayor's mansion and sealed their reunion with a kiss, I cried. A lot. Not just because they were finally together again, but because I knew my mom would've been sitting right next to me, hugging me and squealing like a lovelorn teenager if she were still alive.
|Credit: ABC video|
Fast forward 10 years to another cold afternoon. I sat and watched as the beautiful Megan, Viki's daughter, died of lupus on One Life To Live. I LOVED MEGAN!!! For many reasons I will not go into here, I loved that character. In fact, she was probably my favorite character ever on OLTL. But her death, THAT storyline has been the most important soap storyline in my life. You see, it was lupus that snuffed out my mother's light on this Earth. It was lupus that ended a beautiful and vibrant 30 year old woman's life. It was LUPUS that stole my mother from me. As I watched Megan die of lupus, I literally relived the agony of losing my mom ALL OVER AGAIN. I was pissed that my favorite character was gone. I was livid that my favorite soap couple of the time, Megan and Jake, were being cruelly separated. But MOSTLY I was pissed because this television show was making me cry like a little baby, forcing me to relive something I had not dealt with for 10 years!!! And then the scenes after Megan's death when Viki locks herself with Megan in the hospital room aired, and I just sat there in silence. Not crying, not angry, just numb. It was then that I realized death is just the national end to life, that life goes on EVEN after we lose the ones we love. It took watching Viki grieving for her daughter for me to FINALLY grieve for my mother and accept that I was lucky to have had her in my life, even if only for 11 short years. From that day on I truly UNDERSTOOD the importance of soaps in our lives. They're our family, our friends, our educators, our psychologists, our doctors, OURSELVES! They maybe crazy and fantastical at times, but they are a reflection of society. The good, the bad, the ugly and THE BEST OF US.
I will FOREVER be grateful to Agnes Nixon and the cast and crew of One Life To Live for being my spiritual healers when I didn't even know I needed healing. For those who believe soap don't matter, all I can say to that is THEY DO MATTER. They matter to me. They mattered to my mother. They matter to thousands of other viewers. If you don't believe me, that's just tough cookies. But my story is just one of MANY stories out there. Every soap fan has one of their own. I hope others begin to share theirs so that, collectively, our stories make for ONE HELL OF A SOAP OPERA. We only have ONE LIFE TO LIVE. Let's make saving the soap genre part of OUR lives' journey.