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Return to lately 2017.
the next mother
february 1, 2017
Mary and I bought a 55 inch HD TV about ten years ago. Paid someone to mount it to the white wall in our bedroom. And it was good. To be able to see our favorite TV series, and movies, on a larger screen, with better resolution and truer colors.
On that 55 inch HD TV we saw the first African-American elected president of the United States. Osama Bin-Laden hunted down and killed. Pluto losing its status as a planet. The launch of YouTube, Twitter, and iPhones. A major recession around the world. The deaths of Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Prince.
The TV that when shut off, would reflect across its darkened screen our shadows as we went back and forth through our days.
In what turned out to be the last year of his life, although we didn't know it at the time, that's the TV on which Mary and I, and Mary's dad, Joe, each morning during his visit over the holidays watched the prior day's footage of the documentary we were filming about his life. The final morning, we finished viewing the last of the footage we had shot, finishing with a segment where Joe on that 55 inch HD TV talks about an overview of his life, looking back, the real Joe in our bedroom (every TV we've ever owned we've kept in our bedroom, because that's where we spend most of our time), rising from his chair in his blue bathrobe, walking over to this giant image of himself, patting his HD image on the head, real Joe grinning at us.
A few months ago, our old friend started faltering.
We'd turn it on in the morning, smell of coffee from the kitchen, and instead of it immediately blooming images across its rectangularity, it'd go through a series of dark-screened click-clicks, trying to turn on. When the big lug of a TV does actually turn on, and programming starts up, voices and faces, there'd be a happy, four-note celebratory fanfare. We weren't getting that fanfare. Just the click-click of unsuccessful attempts.
Eventually, after a minute or two, there would be the fanfare, and we'd see the well-groomed men and women in the local newsroom, talking about a crash on 75, a cold front coming in from the west, a shooting in north Dallas that left one man dead.
As the weeks shimmered on, the length of time between the click-clicks and the fanfare grew longer and longer, until it would take five minutes, ten minutes, for the TV to rouse itself, start breathing again.
Often? Isn't it true? We can tell when Death shows up in a doorway. Pretty obvious, most times, isn't it? Death, the next mother, making that long, slow walk to the bed, or in this case the white wall, and at that point we can watch that walk, if we want to.
This was around the holidays. We preferred to be alone, with the outside cold at our windows, our cats. Not waiting for a repairman to come out, stranger in our home, messy moustache, small talk running out.
So we decided to simply leave the TV on twenty-four hours a day. Deal with it in 2017.
At night, just before we went to sleep, we used our remote to transfer the function of the TV over to antenna TV, chose a channel that had no signal. With the lights in the bedroom on, the screen would appear to be dark, but once we turned the lights off, we realized we were getting a large, rectangular nightlight shining down on our bed. But it was dim enough, and we didn't see any other solution, to put up with it and sleep with that low grade light shining on our eyelids. Part of life is, after all, putting up with something you'd rather not. We didn't sleep well, our rest was unsettled, but that was our compromise to not have anyone come over around the end of the year.
Because we do spend so much time now alone in our home, having a repairman over is a disruption. Which we often avoid by simply not getting repairs done. As an example: A number of lights in our kitchen have failed. So when Mary wakes up, walks out of our bedroom into the kitchen, calls up, "Hello?", and I answer, from my upstairs study, "Hello!", and I barefoot downstairs, there is no longer a switch I can flick to burst light throughout the kitchen. Instead, I turn on the overhead light, which twitches from darkness to dimness, one half of it not brightening to yellow, so that there are still lots of shadows. I turn on an under the counter light to the left of our stove, another to the right of our stove. Then the light over our sink, the light in the adjacent utility room, where our washer and dryer are, the light of the floor lamp across from our open-spaced kitchen, in the breakfast nook. It's like advancing into a dark cave, lighting a succession of tapers that don't fully illuminate the wet rock walls.
At some point we decided, instead of spending money to get an old TV fixed, let's spend money buying a new TV.
We usually buy our major appliances through Sears, even if they aren't manufactured by Sears, because they have an excellent extended warranty program. However, Sears is in financial trouble at this point, and according to some within the industry, may declare bankruptcy soon. We did notice they had very few TVs available for purchase, unlike ten years ago. We had the sense that Sears was going through its own long series of click-clicks, with a celebratory fanfare at the end less and less likely.
We tapped around on the Internet, ending up at Best Buy.
Back in the Eighties, we used to go to Best Buy all the time, strolling down the yellow and black aisles. Every Friday, go through their CD bins, lifting out a dozen or so CDs to listen to over the weekend, eating them like chocolates.
So we decided to leave our home, go to a Best Buy to see the TVs we were interested in, 'in person'. Which is always a drag. We had been several weeks alone in our home, out at sea, everything around us green and blue to the horizons, and now we had to sail to shore.
We went to the store here where we live, once inside looking up to locate along the vast back wall the TV department, walking down aisles towards it, holding hands, but no help anywhere. Aisles empty. Ghost town. Not a good sign, when there's no salesperson anywhere, to answer your questions. Finally found someone who actually worked there, rushing down an aisle, who said they'd locate a salesperson. Again, not inspiring a lot of confidence. And another five minute wait before a salesperson finally showed up. So Best Buy does really need to improve its sales presence on the floor. If you don't have any sales people in the different departments, chances are you aren't going to make that many sales.
When we finally did get a sales person, about ten or fifteen discouraging minutes after entering the store, looking around for assistance, things did go smoothly. He was very helpful, locating everything we needed. We ended up buying a Samsung 65 inch 4K TV, Samsung 45 inch 4K TV, a stand for the 45 inch, delivery and wall mount for the 65 inch, plus a five year warranty on each, for twenty-five hundred dollars, a pretty good deal.
We took the 45 inch TV home with us that day, in the back of our Honda CRV. Set it up in our bedroom on a table in front of our dead 55 inch hanging on the wall like Christ.
Turned it on.
And it was stunning. To be honest, I hadn't really expected the upgrade from HD to 4K to be that noticeable, but it was. Even more so, I'd say, than the upgrade years ago from SD to HD. Extraordinary clarity of detail, richness and trueness of color, and a depth to the images that was almost 3D.
Now we're thinking, What will such and such movie look like on 4K? Such and such TV series?
Two weeks later, a guy came out with our 65 inch, huge box that barely fit through the angles of the hallway leading from our kitchen to our master bedroom. Took about an hour to place the wall mount, secure the TV on it, program it so we had full accessibility to Uverse, our Blu-ray player, antenna over the air programming, and the Internet, so we could access content available on Netflix streaming and Amazon Prime.
Sample small talk during that hour:
"I'm guessing most of the people you deal with are happy to see you."
On his haunches, carefully shaking out all the black nuts and bolts for the wall mount. "Before this job? I used to work for a bank. Breaking it to people how much their portfolio had decreased in value when the bubble burst. So yeah, I meet much happier people installing TVs."
Mary and I watch a lot of TV now. If we're out of the bedroom when the weather report comes on, we return with freshly refilled cups of coffee, and I simply point the remote at the TV, rewind to watch the report from the recent past.
The other day, we were watching TV, and beyond the white mini-blinds of our bedroom's bay window, the primary colors of an ambulance's lights blurred across the blinds.
Mary had been distracted by something. Looked over at me. "What was that?"
"An ambulance just went by on the road behind our house." Without thinking, acting on instinct, perhaps I was distracted as well, I picked up the remote, pointed it at the mini-blinds to replay the ambulance's colorful rush past our home, then realized, You can't do that with real life.
Because of course if you could, we would have long ago rewound to Joe's last day with us, after we all viewed that final footage, the real Joe petting the top of the head of the HD Joe, hugging him a little harder, a little longer, at the airport.