My GH Story
I remember the first time I saw General Hospital. The hallways in school were abuzz with excited whispers: “Laura’s alive. Luke’s Laura? Yes! Ooh.” Who were these magical people that all the girls were talking about? Where could I find them? How could I learn what happens next? My memory of watching that first episode is hazy, much like the fog hovering over the water that stood between Luke and a presumed figment of his beloved Laura. He strained his eyes to see through the mist, the music swelled, Luke called out to his Angel, and I was hooked for life.
Unlike me, my mother despised soap operas. She favored talk shows especially Phil Donahue whose voice put me into a coma. Early in my GH story, when Stavros tied Luke to a pair of bedposts and made him watch as he attempted to rape Laura my mother strode across the living room and turned the television off in disgust. Other than her eleven-year-old daughter, who could blame her?
Watching General Hospital, after that, required stealth and strategy. My mother arrived home from work approximately 30 minutes after my younger brother and I did. The school bus dropped us off around 3:20. If I ran down the driveway, unlocked the front door, bounded up the stairs, and turned the TV to ABC before my brother beat me to the dial I could watch 30 minutes of General Hospital. Every minute counted. I had to know who the Brownstone Murderer was. Why was Terry wandering through the streets of Laurelton singing gospel songs? What made her grandmother such a controlling witch? Thankfully I caught the mesmerizing moment in GH history when Lynn Herring’s meek Lucy Coe pulled the pins from her hair to reveal a sexy vixen. Missing that scene would have been a tragedy. By the time I entered high school God had invented the VCR and my mother had brought down the barricades.
General Hospital fueled my yen for adventure between the Aztec Treasure, the Asian Quarter Mystery, and the lure of Cassadine Island. The escapades of Anna Devane by day and Scarecrow and Mrs. King’s Amanda by night convinced me that I wanted to be a spy. So much so, that I rigged my eighth grade career test to show an aptitude for law enforcement. My parents took one look at those results and another at their skinny clarinet-playing daughter and said, “We’ll see.”
The series has left its mark in other ways. For example, GH has taught me that a simple cough indicates lung cancer and a fainting spell means pregnancy at best and a brain tumor at worst (RIP sweet Dominique). Recently, hot priest-turned-doctor Griffin and drug-addicted Dr. Finn asked a fatigued Anna, “Does your skin itch?” By the end of the inquiry they had diagnosed her with a rare blood cancer that requires regular phlebotomy treatments. Naturally then, in April when my eyes turned red and watery my first thoughts went to imminent blindness while my husband rolled his red eyes and swallowed an Allegra.
Like any television show that has graced our screens for over fifty years, GH has had its ups and downs (Ups: the BJ/Maxie heart swap, all things Robin, the Nurses Ball. Downs: Casey the Alien, the Text-Message Killer, the unforgivable loss of Emily Quartermaine). Part of the allure of a soap opera is longevity and with it we must allow some latitude. PC’s canvas of multiple characters has always meant that if one storyline does not please me another will.
Every February, May, and November I watch the birth of a new generation of PC daughters and sons who grow up naturally or rapidly before my eyes. They struggle with mental illnesses, physical challenges, abuse, heartbreak, custody battles, unemployment, and the occasional killer virus. Megalomaniacs from Jerry Jax to Caesar Faison parade in and out of town while all bow before Queen Helena Cassadine. Couples join and split in an endless search for the stability we secretly hope they never fully achieve. And, every Thanksgiving the Quartermaines eat pizza and no one asks what qualifies Michael Corinthos to run a Fortune 500 company.
I admit to spending my college years in Salem, and taking a few weekend trips to Genoa City now and again, but Port Charles has always been my home. General Hospital, with its resurrections, blizzards, blackouts, mob wars, falling elevators, and alarming medical diagnoses gives me joy. When Luke found Laura and I found GH ours was a match made in heaven [she nervously scratches her arm].
What’s your GH story?