“The Wheel”

We used to watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy on a regular basis. That was before cable TV, Netflix, and the realization that these shows were geared toward senior citizens. Truthfully, the shows are really great for any age (especially when students are on Jeopardy, which gives the vast majority of us a fighting chance). It is the advertising on them that reveals their target audience. Now, with the DVR, we don’t need to watch and see if the lady who has fallen will in fact be helped up. (Spoiler: She will be.)

Last Saturday, Bob and I gathered at my parents’ house along with my brother, my sister, and her family. The clocked chimed seven, and we sat down to watch Jeopardy and The Wheel.

My dad is blind, but my mom calls the play-by-play for him during Wheel of Fortune. It is challenging for him, a man who was always involved in everything going on around him, to sit and interact in this manner. But to his credit, he does.

Let’s ramp up that challenge by acknowledging that Dad has a huge hearing loss. With his hearing aids, he can converse, but a lot of chit-chat and our yelling out answers at the TV makes it hard on him. With the rest of us engaged in being the first one to get the answer, we hardly notice their challenge.

The puzzle was “Found in the Kitchen.” It had two words.

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

Got it yet?

The letters started to fill in a few at a time.

_ O O _ _ O O _

_ O L L _ _ T I O N

Mom kept Dad informed. Dad, who can’t see the television much less what is displayed on it, who can barely hear, who has trouble with a lot of noise, softly said, “Cookbook Collection.”

We all went crazy. The blind man solved it before the five sighted adults in the room did. My sister asked if somebody whispered the answer to him, but we aren’t that kind of family, plus he would have never heard us! We are fiercely competitive, and we also would never insult our father by giving an answer to him.

This still has me shaking my head. Maybe Mom and Dad are using some of the products advertised on the show. Maybe they are onto something that keeps their brains sharp. Maybe I should be a regular watcher (not a joke about being regular). For now, I will just shake my head and smile when I think about what a great team my mom and dad are. I guess after 69 years of marriage, the two really do become one.

Mom & Dad celebrating their 65th anniversary,                                 4 years ago

Please Forgive Me, Mr. Saluja

It’s funny – the triggers that uncover the hidden things in my memory. Things for which I personally have not been brought to account. Things that are shameful and embarrassing to speak of. Like how I used to peek into the neighbors’ windows on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

It was for a good cause. But, I’ll get back to that.

First, the trigger. Last weekend Adam West died. He was 88 years old. Holy sadness, Batman!

It was my pleasure to watch Batman, and Robin, especially Robin (his sidekick and ward, Dick Grayson played by Burt Ward). They came running into our living room when I was nine-years-old. I can still hear the “da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da, Batman!” in my mind as I type.  They came on every week at the same bat time and on the same bat channel.

Batman Dance Party

I loved the show so much that my mom bought me The Batman Theme Let’s Dance with the Villains 33 1/3 LP (commonly referred to as “vinyl” nowadays). I would play it on my record player and my little sister and I would have dance parties in our bedroom (also embarrassing).

I had a huge crush on Burt Ward. He was dreamy. True confession: I got caught up in the research for this post and watched a few clips of the old show. Wow, Burt Ward was a terrible actor! How could I have not seen that?

I loved everything about the Batman show. I loved the campiness of it. I understood that Batman was the straight man, a solid, no-nonsense kind of guy who could be depended on in a time of need. And boy were there needs! Each week a new “special guest villain” would appear to attempt to topple the fine city of Gotham; and Batman and Robin would foil them with a “ZOK,” or a “POW,” or a “SOCK.”

But what I did not know, at least until summertime, was that this show was in color! We only had a black and white television, but in the summertime my dad would set the TV out on the porch of our Suburban Maryland home so we could watch out there with the hope of a cool breeze. Yes, not only did we not have a color TV, we didn’t have air conditioning.

That’s when I realized that I was really missing out. Our porch faced the neighbor’s “rec” (short for recreation) room, and there through their sliding glass doors, I spotted Batman and Robin in living color! It was like scales falling off of my eyes. I could not believe that my parents had not provided better for us! I guess we must have been poor and Mom and Dad couldn’t bring themselves to tell us. (Of note, only about 10 percent of homes in the US had color TVs at this time – 1965-66 seem to have been the transition years from black and white broadcasts to color.)

So now I’m sure you understand. I had no choice but to slip over to the side of the house and position myself at the very edge of our yard so that I could see the “BLURP, GLURPP, KAPOW, ZZWAP” the way it was meant to be viewed. Of course, sound was a problem, but a small one in light of the spectacular visual of Batman and Robin in color.

I wondered what else was I missing. Could Bewitched, The Addams Family, and Gilligan’s Island also be in color? (The answers are yes, no, and yes.) Was there a whole world of color that I was being shielded from? Would I have to live in a black and white world forever watching TV through my neighbor’s window? And how would I survive the winter?

I can only imagine that my dad discovered what I was up to and found himself with the dilemma of putting up the cash for a new TV or my disgracing the family. He succumbed and soon I was happily watching my favorite shows from the relative comfort of our own rec room. Once the color TV invaded our home, heat and the view of Mr. Saluja’s color television no longer motivated me to go to the porch in the summertime. But just in case you’re reading this Mr. Saluja, I’m sorry. I should have just knocked on your door and invited myself in.

 

What’s in Your Wallet?

Have you seen Blue Bloods?  It’s a television crime/drama that is almost as much about a family consisting largely of cops as it is about what those cops do in their day-to-day jobs as police officers in New York City.

Blue Bloods Poster

The show, starring Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg, was recommended to us by several of our friends, so we decided to give it a try.  The relationships of four generations are heartwarming and amusing.  They gather together every Sunday night around a large table for dinner and conversation, which includes prayer before the meal and anything-goes topics of discussion.

The commercials during the show do more than advertise products and services.  They also give away their target audience.  Half of the ads are of the “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” variety.  We usually fast forward through them, but we still get the gist of what actors like Betty White are offering.

This has raised concerns and questions between Bob and me.  Are we too young to be watching this show?  We are the pre-walk-in-bathtub generation.  Furthermore, should we admit that this is the kind of show we like?  Our pride could take a hit if people only knew what kind of programming is being viewed behind the closed doors of our home.

Our conversation has also been influenced by this show and has given way to new things to argue about.  In one episode the great-grandfather has a heart attack and is rushed to the hospital.  Tom Selleck (his son) is asked what medications his dad takes.  Poor Tom doesn’t know and feels like a lousy son.  The pharmacy has to be called and precious moments are wasted in an effort to find out if Great Gramps takes blood thinners.  SPOILER ALERT:  Gramps pulls through.

We put the show on pause and I say to Bob, “You know, if you were admitted to the hospital I wouldn’t know what medications you take.”

Bob:  “I don’t take blood thinners.”

Me:  “You take fish oil.  Fish oil is a blood thinner.”

Bob:  “I don’t think that counts.”

Me:  “Oh, it counts, baby.”  (I say this with enough confidence to cover up my lack of confidence.)

Then I look at him with nothing but love in my eyes and say, “You need to have a list of all the stuff you take and put it in your wallet – just in case.”

Bob:  “I constantly am trying to get stuff out of my wallet.  I don’t want to add to it.”

Me:  “So you don’t even have room in there for a piece of paper that could save your life?”

Bob doesn’t like to argue.  He tries to let that last one go but I’m on it with, “I’m right, you know.  Just tell me you know I’m right.”

“You’re right,” he admits.  “The list is a good idea.”

“Thank you,” I say.

We start the show back up, and I look at him with respect that he would admit when he was wrong and joy that this conversation could very well save his life someday.  Love is welling up in my heart and then a realization sets in, and I say, “You’re not going to make the list, are you?”

He gave a simple answer – no.

That’s when I knew that we had entered the next stage of our marriage – old people arguments.  No more arguing about the kids or calendars or jobs or vacations.  We’ve moved on to bigger things – what’s in your wallet?

I’m Not Getting Old – I’m  Just Getting More Creative in Linking Two Vastly Unrelated Subjects

When my granddaughter called to ask me what I remembered about President Kennedy’s assassination for a school assignment she was working on, it triggered something in me.  You may think it was the memories of the events of that day.  Of course, that happened; but what it really triggered was a cold, harsh reality.  I’m getting old.  Middle-schoolers go to people my age to find out about the past.  I’m somebody’s homework.

I explained to Mia that when JFK was shot I was seven years old – a second-grader.  The full impact was lost on me much like the reason why we had atomic bomb drills where we would crouch under our desks while the air raid siren blared.  On that day, though, I remember our teacher crying as she sent us home from school early.  I remember my parents being upset.  I remember being sad for Caroline and John-John; he was such a cute little boy.  It was strange to think that the president had a regular life as a husband and father.

 

IMG_4828The weirdest thing I recall as standing out in my mind was the newspaper.  The Evening Star had the words EXTRA, EXTRA across the top banner.  This was odd and unusual enough to me that I saved the paper and have it to this day.  Somewhere in the mind of that second grader was the realization that this was important and of lasting impact – a piece of history recorded for posterity.

But, this is supposed to be a blog about Life on the Lighter Side, so with that in mind, I’ll let you know that my being my granddaughter’s homework was not the only thing that has reminded me that I’m getting older.  As background, you should know that I am a huge Seinfeld fan.  My son, Scott, sent me a notice that Larry Thomas, aka the Soup Nazi of Seinfeld fame, was going to be dispensing soup in a Publix in Kissimmee, which is clear across town.  I was excited about going until I found out the time slot involved a return home during rush hour.  Sadly, I’ll never know the intense pleasure of having my bowl filled with mulligatawny by a stern-faced soup ladler; and I’ll never know if bread was included or not.

That may not seem like a big deal to you, but just a few years ago I stalked Paul McCartney, I mean had lunch with a friend while trying to get a glimpse of him at his hotel where he was staying across town.  I also have driven across the state to hear my favorite author, Alexander McCall Smith, give a lecture.  So it broke my heart a little to know that I wouldn’t brave I-4 traffic in order to see a Seinfeld character in action.

Now that I think about it, it’s all about how you look at life.  Maybe I’m not getting old.  Maybe I’m simply having a season of personal growth.  You know, counting the cost and realizing the value of my own time.  Either way, it adds up to, “No soup for me!”  Ah, but I can always catch Seinfeld in re-runs and ladle my own bowl of soup.  Plus, there’s next to no traffic in my kitchen.  Sounds like a perfect plan.

Miracle at CVS

While in CVS today I was able to get a rather large knife out of the hands of a man.  And then I thanked him.  The amazing part of this story is not that the man pulled a knife on me – he didn’t.  It was that I asked him if he had a pocket knife I could borrow to pop open the back of a watch; and he, without hesitation, pulled out the biggest pocket knife I have ever seen.  He must have huge pockets.

I smiled about this for a long time because it did my heart good to be able to ask a stranger for help of this type, especially in this crazy world we live in today; and he helped me without hesitation.

Yes, Virginia, there are kind, knife-wielding people out there; and they are ready to lend a hand at the mere request of a stranger.  It’s a Christmas miracle.

Of course, it didn’t take but a moment to relate this to a Seinfeld episode or two.  This isn’t too Christmassy, but today I felt a little bit like Elaine.  Lesson to be learned here:  Never judge a book by its cover.

 

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I Really Don’t Know What I’m Doing (and it doesn’t bother me too much either)

I’ve just had it confirmed that technology has left me behind. As a side note, I’m not surprised. Here are a few examples.

We have a Wii. We have this primarily because my husband and I love to play Tetris and Doctor Mario. Of course, like any self-respecting adults, we say we have it for the grandchildren. No one believes us. It’s probably because we are so darn good at those games. Bob and I frequently play World Championships of the Day to see who will be the reigning Master of Doctor Mario. I couldn’t tell you who has the title right now, not because I’m modest if I won or upset because I lost. It’s because I never remember. I should write it down. When we were younger we did keep a running tally, but now we have gone beyond those childish ways. Look how we’ve matured!

I didn't even attempt to set up this controller

It’s nice to have an uncle around to set things up.

Last weekend our grandsons who are six and seven were staying with us. I had the extreme challenge of setting up a different game for them – not only a different game but one that used a different controller. This proved too much for me. When one of my sons came home he helped me with my dilemma and delicately mentioned that the Wii is outdated technology. Ouch. The truth hurts. Another of my sons said he only has to tell his x-box to turn on and it does. That’s the kind of immediate obedience I always wanted from my kids!

Then there’s the whole TV thing. Everyone has a different cable provider or uses a satellite dish or hooks things through a gaming system. There are like nine controllers sitting around any given living room and they all mock me. I remember having to walk across the room to turn on the TV. Yes, all the way across a room! The only thing that remotely resembled a TV control for me was my little sister.

So now, I have a daughter who has no cable or dish system. She has a computer hooked up to her TV and a two-year-old daughter who hides the mouse. There is no sense in even trying to watch TV there.

As I mentioned, one of my sons has an x-box that is voice commanded. I don’t think it recognizes my voice and I am a little afraid I’ll mess the whole thing up. After the TV is on, will it tell me what to do? Actually, that would be helpful.

Another son has a dish system. He has step-by-step written instructions for me so that I can watch TV. It’s still challenging. When I was trying to turn it on for my grandsons, one of them asked me, “Do you even know how to turn the TV on?”

Well, I did it. I proved him wrong. It took me ten minutes, but I got that TV on and left it on for the remainder of my stay there. Why tempt fate?