Have you ever found out that someone you knew decades ago -- a childhood friend, neighbor, co-worker -- has passed away? Even though you maybe haven't seen that friend in years, decades even, you are seized by grief. Somehow, the world was a better place just knowing that person was out there, even if he/she was no longer a fixture of your life. Somehow, there was the feeling that your story with that person might not be over and you might find your way back into each other's lives, but now, you realize, it's too late.
I had that sensation yesterday when it hit the news that CBS has announced the cancellation of Guiding Light.
Go ahead -- roll your eyes. Bemoan the fact that I'm comparing the cancellation of a soap opera to the death of a human being. But I suspect that there is more than one of you out there who shares my grief and understands exactly where I'm coming from.
I grew up with Guiding Light. My mom was a stay-at-home mom until I was in middle school, and many summer afternoons were spent watching the goings-on in Springfield with either Mom or my grandmother, for whom her "stories" were practically a religion. While I watched most of those CBS soaps with Mom and Grandma, GL was always my favorite. I KNEW these people on the screen like they were family. I rejoiced in their celebrations and mourned their losses. I learned a lot watching Guiding Light. I learned about adoption watching Alan and Elizabeth Spaulding adopt Phillip, who was really the son of Justin and Jackie Marler. I learned about alcoholism watching young Tim (played by Kevin Bacon) battle the bottle. I learned what rape was when Roger raped his wife, Holly, and later when Beth Raines was attacked by her horrible stepfather Bradley. Granted, some of the things I learned from GL were probably of questionable appropriateness for a young child, but I still learned. GL created lasting, lifelong memories. To this day, I cannot hear the song "You Needed Me" by Anne Murray without thinking of the romance of Kelly and Morgan. I dreamed for the kind of romantic adventures and capers of Quint and Nola. I can remember summer days riveted to the screen to see if Phillip and Beth would end up together or if they would instead choose Mindy and Rick respectively. (I never understood why girls weren't falling all over Rick rather than Phillip -- Rick was so cute with that grin and that curly hair!!)
Like many childhood soap watchers, I drifted away from GL. I had flirtations with ABC soaps (the soaps all my friends watched in high school) and Days of Our Lives (another high school/college chum). I probably watched GL last right after I graduated from college when I returned to the show in a short of fitful nostalgia as I stood poised for my new life to begin. Every now and then, I would see a headline on a soap magazine in the checkout line and shake my head with a smile, thinking, "Oh, Reva, still up to your usual hijinks!" It was nice knowing GL and the denizens of Springfield were still there waiting for me if I ever needed them.
On September 18, GL will gasp its last, and I've already made a decision to be there (at least via DVR) when it happens. It's the least I can do for an old friend who was there for me for so many years.