Sunday, May 6, 2018

Watching TV

My father's favorite sport is baseball.
     I don't know why. Maybe it's because he comes from a time when there was nothing else to do. Back when he was growing up, it didn't matter that a baseball game could last all afternoon. What else were you going to do? Cut an apple in half and watch it turn brown?
     My lovely wife tries to make it as enjoyable as she can for him. She fluffs his pillow. Makes him snacks. She even sits him down and turns the TV on for him. The only problem is, he won't stay sitting down. He gets up and goes to his room constantly.
    When he does, after ten or fifteen minutes, we'll change the channel, but my father must have some kind of radar, because that's exactly the time he’ll come back. He'll walk into the family room, stand on one side of the TV, look at it, at us, at it, at us, and ask no one in particular, "Is the game over?"
    He knows the game isn't over. I have a sneaking suspicion that he's secretly been watching it in his room on his TV, laughing to himself--"Heh, heh, heh."--and, when enough time has passed for us to have changed the channel to something we like, he comes back.
    "No," I'll tell him, "but you went to your room, so we thought you were watching it there." I give him hints that are so big, they could be rolling down a cave at Indiana Jones.
    So we'll change the TV back for him. After awhile, my wife will get up and fiddle around in the kitchen. She'll clean something, or make us some popcorn. I'll pick up a magazine and go thumbing through it. You know I'm bored when reading what Martha Stewart has to say is the more entertaining alternative.
    My father will then get up and go to his room. He doesn't say, "I'll be back." He doesn't say, "Goodnight." He doesn't say, "Excuse me, but I've got to go see a man about a horse." He just leaves, without a word.
    My wife eventually makes her way back and sits besides me. I'll put the magazine down. We'll talk for a bit. After another ten to fifteen minutes have passed, we'll look at each other. I'll pick up the remote and change the channel. With any lucks there will be a rerun of Wings, an old TV show we both like. That, or Third Rock From The Sun. "Hey," I'll say, "I haven't seen this episode," and, right on cue, my father will walk in. He'll look at the TV, at us, at the TV, and back at us.
    "Is the game over?"
    "When you left," I’ll tell him, "I thought that meant you didn't want to watch the game."
    "No, I want to watch the game."
    So we’ll change the television back to baseball. My father will continue standing, watch the game for a few minutes, and then walk off again. Which brings me to the present...
    Ten minutes later, no pop.
    Twenty minutes later, no pop.
    "What do you think?"
    "I think he's not coming back," I tell my wife, but I’m lying.
    “Are you sure?”
    “Not really.”
    "Should we change it?"
    "We'll only have to change it back."
    "How does he know?"
    "I don't know. He just does."
    "Do you think he’s wiretapping us?"
     I know my wife is kidding. She has that wry smile she gets when she's being facetious. My wife is funny, but she has a very dry sense of humor. If you miss the visual cues, you'll think she was serious. She lifts the table lamp and looks underneath it, pretending to search for a surveillance bug.
    So I change the TV. This time hoping for Gilligan’s Island.
     Yeah, I'm old.
    At the thirty minute mark my father comes back, right on schedule. He has papers in his hands and tells me he needs help with his bank statements. My wife gives me that wry smile again. Then, without a word, she gets up and goes upstairs. She gives me a little salute on her way out. She knows better than to stay.
    "What's the problem, pop?" I ask, not really wanting to know.
    My father sits himself down at the kitchen table, so I have to get up, go over, and see what's bothering him.
    "I don't know about my bank," he tells me. "Those characters, they'll cheat you blind."
    "What do you mean?"
    He shows me his statement. I look it over. It looks fine to me.
    "Those characters are after my money," he tells me.   
    He asks about this deposit. Then about that one. They are the same deposits that are made every month, and in the same amounts. He asks me about a few of the deductions.  I tell him, well, pop, on this day you did this and on that day you did that. Everything checks out. Thirty minutes after we began, we're done.
    My father gets up. Takes a step toward his room. Stops. Looks at the TV. Picks up the remote. Changes the channel back to the baseball game he keeps not watching. Then leaves. Back to his room.
     To finish not watching the game, I suppose.
    I sit down. Turn off the TV. There's nothing I really want to watch, anyway. After awhile, when she senses there's no longer a disturbance in The Force, my wife comes back down and sits beside me.
    "Is the game over?" she asks.
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