Here’s the kind of cross marketing no one wants: your autobiography is published concurrent with the announcement of terminal illness and a projection of three months to live! As horrible as it sounds, that indeed is what happened to Valerie Harper a few weeks back when she launched her book I Rhoda and the revelation of her catastrophic diagnosis and imminent death from brain cancer concurrently.
In a series of highly moving TV appearances on shows like The Drs. (which I absolutely would not watch otherwise), Valerie bravely talked about her challenge with characteristic honesty and tremendous courage. I watched through tears as someone I’ve never met but feels like a dear old friend—a peculiar but powerful consequence of growing up with someone who came into our homes each week and made life just a little more bareable—shared details about her situation and reaffirmed her commitment to living each day fully come what may.
Valerie did something else during her I Rhoda/terminal cancer press junket that I thought was remarkable for a celebrity: she articulated her need to reassure her fans that she was okay in a way that was at once remarkably ego-less but highly attenuated to the complicated dynamic between fan and star. She knows that we are strangers but that we also feel close to her and, to put it simply, she doesn’t want us to worry. This act of sincere caretaking in the face of disaster made me cry.
Truth is, I am worried. Thanks to the power of social media, I can tell you that Valerie hasn’t checked in with us on Twitter since the Kentucky Derby and on Facebook since several weeks before that. Given the gravity of the situation, I am fearing the worst.
So in the spirit of the gracious, talented, and incredibly warm Valerie Harper, here is an optimistic summer recipe for her Summer Squash that I sharing with my most sincere hope that she is not in pain and with gratitude from a fan (and a friend).
Valerie Harper’s Summer Squash
3 TBSP butter
1 onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 green pepper, chopped
4 med. tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1-1/2 lb. summer squash
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Saute onions, garlic, and green pepper in butter until tender and light brown. Add tomoatoes, salt, and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally. Peel squash if skin is not tender; drain. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Turn half of the squash into a deep pie pan or casserole. Cover with half of the tomato sauce and half of the cheese; repeat layers. Bake until cheese topping is bubbly and beginning to brown.