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Small-Screen Solace

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Meredith Hoffa: My glamorous, tough, feisty, and dearest-ever Gram passed away the other week. She was 92. Now that the funeral is over and I'm back in L.A., it's pretty much back to life as I knew it for most hours of most days. But whenever there is stillness and quiet -- like when I'm in bed at night -- I find that I cannot not think about her. Always these images: her adorable, vaguely gap-toothed smile, her teasing blue eyes, her scary-spotless living room (the room where she held court, the room that was perpetually dotted with little crystal bowls of chocolates -- all covered with shower caps. For freshness, obviously). And always, I picture her chair.

grandmother watching tv

This chair -- nestled all cozily beside a lamp in her living room -- was a regular old non-recliner-type armchair, and it was here that my Gram passed the last several years of her life. Not literally, I don't mean; she was still mobile. But this chair was more or less home. It was from this chair that she took visitors, talked on the phone, held great-grandchildren, worked crossword puzzles, unwrapped lemon hard candies. It was also from this chair that she watched television. A somewhat phenomenal amount of television, really. While she had lots of company -- grandchildren bringing in Sunday brunch, Lou who brought up the mail, Dianne who came every other week to do her hair, Mike who futzed with the AC and always got a Ziploc to-go baggie of chocolates for the road -- TV was a companion to her. Television was there day in and day out, even in the blue predawn hours when there was no sleep, and on Chicago's bleakest winter days when snowstorms kept her visitors away.

These were a few of my Gram's TV favorites, the things I could pretty much count on seeing over the course of any visit:

The Weather Channel -- For my Gram, keeping abreast of the weather in the greater Chicago area wasn't enough. She liked to keep tabs on the entire country. And the cute thing wasn't simply that she watched the Weather Channel incessantly, it was that she believed that all human beings did -- or should. So every Saturday when we'd talk on the phone, there would inevitably be some exchange like this:

Gram: Everyone in [name a tiny city very far away that I don't know/care anything about] must be wondering what on earth is going on.

Me: How so?

Gram: What do you mean, how so? Don't you keep up with the weather??

Me: Um. Yes.

Gram: [judge-y silence]

Lifetime Original Movies -- I've always wondered who the audience is for these tragedy festivals and now I know: It's people like my sweet Gram. Many an afternoon, the trademark sounds of these stellar productions -- a woman's whispered confession, a choked-back sob, a breathy plea for help -- could be heard wafting from her living room. I'd always be like Heh heh. Gram's watching "A Daughter's Killer in the Basement." Heh. I'm going to read the New Yorker. But within mere minutes, who would be on the couch snuggled under the brown quilt, eyes glued to the set, completely hypnotized by a riveting performance by Meredith Baxter or Nancy McKeon or Jennie Garth or Lea Thompson or Dana Delany or Gina Gershon? This gal (pointing at self).

Da Bears -- My ladylike, silk-turtleneck-blouse-wearing Gram didn't look like the kind of person who would follow sports, but she did. Like she'd actually watch football on her own and have opinions about certain plays and whatnot. I always marveled at this because I still can't manage to grasp football despite having attended many games and having had people explain the rules to me many times over many years (the concept of "off sides," for instance, makes my head explode). Gram, on the other hand, legitimately followed the Bears. Also the Bulls. Plus she knew a surprising amount about tennis and possessed a strangely vast store of knowledge about the Williams sisters.

Rachel Ray -- Recently I noticed that my Gram had taken a liking to the one and only Rachel Ray. I find this kind of bewildering because my Gram tends to prefer the company of more demure ladies, and I would've thought little miss EVOO would have struck her as grating on the ears, not to mention a bit over-tan and full in the face. But what do I know, because my Gram seemed to find her delightful. Rachel Ray! Who would've thought? But that was my Gram: steadfast as can be, yet, still, not without some surprises up those silky blouse sleeves of hers.


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1 comments so far | Post a comment now
Marcus February 18, 2010, 9:48 AM

Mer, I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother’s passing and I only hope she had a chance to see Gina Gershon in the Lifetime original movie: “Everything She Ever Wanted.” I loved her Southern “accent,” even though I felt like I wasted 4 hours of my life.


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