Categorically, The Best

Today, in the middle of a not so busy day, I happened to glance down at my phone. There wasn’t much else going on inside – or outside – my fanciful food trailer. For once, no election blather screaming for my attention from this little Samsung phone in which I type. No Facebook screams heard silently escaping from the Left and Right wing political airplanes that have flooded the airwaves these past months…

… Just the news that Alex Trebek died.

I had only a minute or two to gather my thoughts and post the above comment. Now, I’m home and have a few quiet moments to sit. I had quiet moments three hours ago when the news was posted, but silent moments can be interrupted when sitting behind a register … waiting … and waiting … and …. waiting.

A beautiful November day. Sunshine. A puzzler to me, however, my business is seasonal and event-centric which is why I don’t worry about slow sales days in the first week of the 11th month – an off season, non-event, no fuss trailer time-out. A customer here and there, nonetheless, does interrupt a stream of thought when attempting to write about such an iconic figure in American culture.

We watched his hair turn salty white over the years, didn’t we? We so much enjoyed the smart, intellectual banter between Alex and the probably smarter than us trio of folks who methodically pushed the plungers anticipating a daily double. We were rapt by Ken Jennings and his mastery of the board. as did the stoic, gentlemanly host of Jeopardy for 36 years since its reincarnation in 1984. Alex Trebek had that connection with players – those who lost and winners all.

None more fascinated and enthralled by the handsome Mr. Trebek than my grandmother who didn’t miss many shows in her retirement years. Grandma was already advanced in her graying head ahead of Alex when she quietly confirmed the answers already given by contestants. I don’t believe she missed many … all the while paying more attention to the crosswords or word searches already begun in the magazine on her lap. She was a pretty smart cookie and wonderfully honest, too. “Isn’t Alex just so handsome?”, she’d ask me with a not-so trivial twinkle in her eye. “Yes, Grandma, he is.”, was the only reply a grandson could give his sweet mom’s mom who, obviously, felt a deep admiration and connection toward a little man in the t.v. who was larger than life to her.

She was one of millions I have to assume. The connection with him doesn’t end with categories and players, either. When his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer nearly two years ago was announced, we saw thousands of Americans reach out with messages of support and kindness. Similarities of circumstances, “We’ve been there and are here for you” messages, and even “Stay Positives” from all over the world came flowing in like oceans of words on waves of kindness. He knew his fame was not trivial. He knew the thousands of handshakes at the end of each game and the dialogues with each player after the first commercial break meant something to us. He knew his once-in-a-while correction of a wrong answer to a right one made us appreciate his unique brilliance and humility. He knew we loved who he was – how he took us away for a 1/2 hour every day (or so) as we found time … or, every day for retired grandmothers.

I’m sure others have eulogized Mr. Trebek better or more fluently on this day of his passing. I’ve been beaten in trivia games by my dear mother relentlessly over the years, pounded in Pinochle by Grandma as well. They’re both gone … as is Alex on this day. Seems like a little bit of the magic in this world has left with all three no longer among us.

Nobody can replace them. Nobody. I guess all of us are irreplaceable and we are treasures in our own right. That’s the takeaway from today’s news. Only a few get to stand behind a podium for 36 years and be remarkable, iconic, deeply loved American gameshow host. Most of us sit quietly in a food trailer, behind a desk, in a tractor, nursing a patient, whatever our calling is … and enjoy our normal, non-trivial lives.

That’s the realization one comes to when glancing down at a phone for a few minutes – a small amount of time to think about the impact of one man’s 80-year life that was, categorically, the best for all of us.

Rest in peace, Alex Trebek. You will be missed.

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