I love writing to photos. I often do so here on Lit Bits and Pieces (some of my recent favorites: Old Red Barn, Dancing Ghosts, and from earlier this week, High In the Sunlit Silence). Today’s prompt on Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog is writing to a photo, taking special note of the background.
Ordinarily I’d comb through my nature photos for a chance to let the background reveal its secrets, capturing impressions in light of what they seem to be saying to me… but this week a person looms large in the foreground of my mind and so I write to these images instead, out of gratitude, remembrance, and mourning…
-Alex Trebek from the retro run of Jeopardy! when taping ceased this summer due to COVID-19. Alex became the new host the year before my husband and I were married. As young newlyweds, my husband and I competed against each other, keeping tally mark scores (which were occasionally disputed…). Our children, from babyhood onward, knew Alex Trebek. As a toddler, our oldest pronounced the surname “Tra-jeck.” He’d announce along with Johnny Gilbert: “And here’s the star of our show, Aaaa-lex Tra-jeck!” Alex eventually asked to be introduced as the host; he said the show belonged to the contestants, for they are the stars.
As time passed, our oldest accrued his own set of tally marks and eventually wiped the floor with his dad and me. We were hardly competition for him. He took the Jeopardy! test a few years ago and didn’t become a contestant; we urged him to keep trying… these days, his brother, eight years younger, who looked at the rest of us with a sort of reticent fascination and maybe concern over our addiction to Jeopardy! through the years, regularly whips his parents.
And so, across four decades, Jeopardy! marked family time. It marked learning. With it we watched our children come into their own. It marked our personal friendly, sometimes fierce, but always fun, competition, all presided over by Alex like a modern-day oracle, a witty human version of Apollo or Odin, the holder of knowledge, wisdom, mysteries, trivia…
We grieved when Alex shared the news of his pancreatic cancer last year. We marveled at his spirit, his courage.
I’ve watched several interviews since his death last Sunday. These lines stay with me:
How do I want to be remembered? As a nice guy… I never went out of my way to malign anyone…
While looking at this photo of young Alex I can’t help noting the red and blue background in the context of 2020, hearing his voice echo: I never went out of my way to malign anyone…
We still have so much to learn.
Speaking of voting…
Silver fox: Another shot from the retro summer run. In 2018, Alex let viewers vote on social media for him to keep or not to keep his beard. Results were never exactly determined, as apparently Alex’s wife said let it go. That was enough for him.
In September our youngest gave his dad Alex’s autobiography as a birthday gift. At the outset, Alex says he’s not a writer, that he isn’t comfortable writing about himself.
But he did it, for us to know “Alex Trebek, human being” a little better.
This self-avowed “non-writer” writes:
I’ll be perfectly content if that’s how my story ends: sitting on the swing with the woman I love, my soul mate, and our two wonderful children nearby. I’ll sit there for a while and then maybe the four of us will go for a walk, each day trying to walk a little farther than the last. We’ll take things a step at a time, one day at a time. In fact, I think I’ll go sit in the swing for a bit right now.
The weather is beautiful—the sun is shining into a mild, mild looking sky, and there’s not a cloud in sight.
His family was with him when he passed.
Mine mourns. On receiving the news, our four-year-old granddaughter wept. “Who will be the host now?”
Just one more answer
Elucidating, eloquent, as an era ends.
Our minds can hardly contain the vast
Potpourri of knowledge showcased.
Alex, your legacy to generations
Remains like the ultimate
You enriched our lives, exponentially.
He is a permanent figure, there in the background of the story of our lives.
Final words—the back dust jacket of Alex’s book.
If you want to write in community, SOS: Magic in a Blog invites you to share your heart.