The Missing Television

by JL Beeken on 10-12-2011

Some days, even with the best of intentions, getting out of bed is not a good idea.

I went off to a dental appointment, not that I really wanted to but it was on the calendar. Things started going downhill from there.

The first half hour was taken up with moving me from room to room because various equipment was malfunctioning.

There was a time when dental chairs were just dental chairs. They were a place to sit down. Now they’re heated massage loungers with overhead televisions. Three dental technicians between them couldn’t figure out how to turn on the new computerized ultra-sonic thingamabob. I couldn’t either. I’ll have to go back for a second appointment because time ran out fiddling around with all these built-for-convenience devices.

Then I met my new old friend at the grocery store. I don’t think he remembered me at first but when I said ‘computer’ that set him off down the computer track.

Sometime since I last saw him he gave his computer to one of his sons. Apparently, he also gave away his television and DVD player although he didn’t mean to. Well, maybe that’s what he did. He can’t remember what he did and he doesn’t know what happened to them.

I thought I didn’t have enough patience to listen to this because I was tired and cranky from the dental office. But the desperation of it had me riveted. It must be tough rapidly declining into senility and trying to hang onto language long enough to tell a story, no matter how short-lived the importance of it might be.

The story, as far as I could understand it, goes something like this:

His son was over at his house and said, “Dad, you don’t still want that old TV, do you? Let’s go find you something better.”

So they went to a second-hand store. (Who in the world would buy ‘better’ electronics at a second-hand store?). They picked out something that looked pretty good on the shelf and took it home. The son said, This isn’t going to work because this wire doesn’t go here and that thing doesn’t go there. So they took it back to the store and got their money back.

Now he doesn’t have a television. He used to have an old TV with a DVD player next to it. He said, “You remember that, right?”

Yep. So, I kept asking him, “Where’s your old TV?” He didn’t know. I said, “Ask your son – ‘Where is my old TV?’”

I could see him concentrating really hard to file that piece of information, repeating, repeating, repeating, “Ask my son where is my old TV.”

We were sitting outside in the blustery weather. I hate October. I’d like a calendar that ends with September and begins with May. I was hating the story about the TV. Anyone whose synapses are still properly synapsing could have told this story in 30 seconds. We were 15 minutes in and I was still only vaguely understanding a connection to something about a missing television. He wanted to take me across the street for coffee. I don’t drink coffee.

Then he wanted me to take him home so I could help him search for the old TV. He said, “If I’d thrown some clothes on top of it I think I would have seen it by now. I might have given it away. I don’t remember.”

Then he wanted me to go shopping with him and pick out a new TV.

I said, “I don’t know anything about TV’s. I don’t even own one.”

He said, “Well, if you were going to buy a TV, how would you do it?”

I said, “I’d go on the Internet and read reviews.”

“The what?” he said.

“Computer …

“I don’t have a computer anymore. I gave it to my son.”

“OK, I said, “Come home with me right now and we’ll search for a TV on my computer. As long as you promise me you’ll take a taxi home. Can you afford to pay for a taxi?”

Yes, but I’ll just walk back.

“You can’t. It’s too far.”

Ignoring me, he said, “I don’t want to do that today. It’s too cold. When you get old you get cold faster.” (No kidding, tell me about it.)

I said, “Did you like your old TV?”

“Yes.”

I said, “Ask your son where he put your old TV.” (Who would steal a TV from an 81-year old man?)

He said, “Well, if he put it in the basement for the kids, I’ll tell him, never mind, and you and me, we’ll go shopping for a new TV and then you can hook it up and teach me about it. Nothing fancy. Just something small and nice like the other one.”

“I don’t know anything about TV’s,” I said again.

“Well for sure I can’t hook it up,” he said, “I’ll call you.”

(That works for me. I figure in five minutes from now he’ll forget he said that.)

Two hours later, the phone rings. He can’t find the TV anywhere. He remembers now, for sure, he gave it away to the second-hand store.

“Can you get it back?”

“No, I don’t want it back. I want a new one.”

(For the love of God, what kind of son would leave his father without a TV?)

OK. After lunch at the senior’s center, (because, he said, it’s the best meal of the week and he gets it for a good price) I’ll pick him up and we’ll go scope out the latest televisions. Step One, find out what size screen he’ll be happy with.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Coupe 10-13-2011 at 10:54 AM

Oh lord, JL, I just ask myself why you are having to take all this trouble. What in god’s name is wrong with the son? He should be looking after his dad, not you. Although I’m pleased that you do take the time, but really, you shouldn’t have to.

Still, I see myself ending up in the dad’s situation in thirty years max, if not a lot sooner. The kicker then being that I don’t have any kids to rely on, so like your new old friend, I will also have to rely on the kindness of strangers…

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JL 10-13-2011 at 11:42 AM

I woke up this morning thinking something similar. Why not ‘force’ this back on the son(s)?

What he told me is that he doesn’t want to ‘bother’ his son with this TV thing because his son is really busy and he already tried to set him up with the second-hand TV and he’d rather ‘hire’ me to help him find a brand new one. He also said, and I missed the meaning at first, that he didn’t want his son chiding him for changing his mind. Ah, that puts a whole different slant on things.

Since he has not yet been committed to ‘assisted living’ he’s still free to roam the streets and do what else he pleases. Like talk to strangers and make deals of whatever kind. And he’s fairly lucid still; he just forgets words and has a tendency to ramble in his speech.

Obviously, I don’t know the son’s side of this story and me being in some kind of ‘middle’ could lead to ever-increasing confusion with the old man forgetting what he said/did in the recent past. For all I know, one of the sons may have already ordered a new TV for him and he forgot that part.

I think the son(s) are fine. I haven’t met them yet but I think I would have heard of trouble by now if there was any. Depending on your kids is not always a good thing because yours kids might not like you all that much and see your declining years as a good time for ‘payback’ but in this case I think it’s OK.

One of the girls in the grocery store said his son comes to pick him up there sometimes. I don’t think he’s abandoned, by any means.

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JL 10-15-2011 at 12:16 AM

What I thought was better judgment led me to look up the son in the phone book. First try I got the right house.

But the wrong son. “Do whatever you want with him, he said, “I don’t care.”

(Is this Father we’re talking about here or a sack of potatoes?)

So, I did (do what I want.) I took the old man out TV shopping. We got it down to a model number, a DVD player and an HDMI cable. Next week we’ll pick up the order, hook it up, rent a movie and make ourselves comfortable. He likes Westerns. So do I.

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