Friday, September 18, 2009

The Tribe is Silent

For reasons that I have never quite understood, Margaret and I have enjoyed quite a bit and been faithful viewers of Survivor since its very first season. There have been too many reality shows (or unscripted dramas as they are somewhat euphemistically called) to count that have dotted (some might say littered) the TV landscape over the course of the past ten years. I can say that there is not another that we have watched. Yet for whatever reason, we started watching Survivor way back when Richard Hatch was just another overweight gay man and not a millionaire tax cheat. And dutifully, each and every season since then, we have watched.

Admittedly, somewhere along the line our level of interest in the ins and outs of the show waned. Having watched last season from Episode One through to the live reunion show I could not tell you (a) the name of the winner; (b) the gender of the winner; or (c) the locale at which the contestants spent their month-plus away from home. Yet I continued to enjoy watching the show every Thursday night.

Survivor started its run prior to Suzy B.'s commencement of her battle against breast cancer. And prior to getting sick she would join Margaret and me every week to watch it. Such is the benefit of living a half-mile from one's in-laws. From the time she first was diagnosed in 2004, the weekly ritual of watching the show together took on additional significance. For the first few years, she drove over every Thursday night to watch with us. And the three of us - like dorks - not only watched together but we rooted along together and critiqued the combatants' performance. And it was great.

As her battle against cancer became more pitched and radiation therapy and chemotherapy started to exact their own terrible toll, it became too much for her to drive at night. Margaret would go over to her home and pick her up so she could come over and watch with us. At show's end, Margaret would take her home. By that point in time as she started to deal with the residual effects of her treatment she would wear bandannas (her "turbans"). Among her favorites were the Survivor bandannas that Margaret and I bought for her at the CBS on-line store. It became a Thursday night ritual that upon arriving at our house to watch the show she would take off her hat to reveal her festive head covering.

For the past three or four seasons of Survivor, Suzy B was not well enough to make the trip at all. Instead, she watched from the comfort of her own bed. While she was not here with us, she and Margaret would call one another during each commercial break to talk about what had happened and what they thought was going to happen. At the break before the evening's Tribal Council one would call the other so they could handicap who was on the chopping block.

But last night, for the first time in a decade's worth of Thursday nights, Margaret opted out of Survivor. One night last week - seeing a promotion for it for the first time - she told me that she no longer wanted to watch it. It turns out that it was not simply a TV show after all. It was something much more for Margaret. It was something she loved in large part because even as cancer attacked her mom and limited their ability to continue to do together so many of the things that they enjoyed, they still were able to enjoy a 60-minute respite from it - a cease-fire if you will - every week.

I think that for present purposes it is simply too painful for Margaret to watch. Better to not do so than to try to figure out what to do to fill the time during the commercials, unable to talk to the one person with whom she would most like to speak.

The torch is out. The flame extinguished - yet the fire unforgettable.


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