So there I was… at the tender age of eight, sleeping happily when my restful slumber was disrupted by the deep, basso voice of my father from the living room. “Jason! Once around the horn!” Sighing loudly, I would then drag myself out of bed to go downstairs, which was always freezing because during the Carter administration 55 degrees was considered “room temperature.” My eyes would still have sleep in them as I made my way to the console Magnavox TV located in the corner of the living room. I plopped down to my knees in my well worn pj’s and performed my nightly duty for, you see, I was my father’s remote control.
My job was to twist the silver dial, with its heavy, metallic click, through all six stations our cable company carried at the time. I acted in much the same manner as the scan feature on your car’s radio. Pausing at each channel for the requisite six or seven seconds, I waited for the decision to leave it there or continue on the next. Eventually, my father would decide on this half-hour’s viewing and send me back up to bed. If I was lucky, this ritual would only play itself out two or three times a night.
This was not the only interaction my dad and I had that involved the TV. With six other family members in the house and only one set, my opportunities to program my own entertainment were somewhat limited; so whenever I got the chance to sneak in a rerun of Star Trek, I had to take it. To my chagrin, the episodes seemed to always run concurrent with televised baseball games, which fed my father’s insatiable addiction to sports. Lucky for me, the only thing he loved more than the Yankees was his naps. I only had to feign interest until his eyelids folded shut and the snoring began. Then I would creep up to the console, and with the tactile dexterity of an old-time safe-cracker, I attempted to silently turn the aforementioned channel knob. Beads of sweat would form on my forehead as I felt the selector move closer to the next station. Then, invariably and without fail, the click of the switch would cause my father to startle awake. He would then demand that I, “turn that game back on!” To which I would reply, “You weren’t even watching it.”
“Yeah, I was.”
“Then what’s the score?”
“4-1, the Yankees are ahead.”
And, by God, if he wasn’t always right, which amazed me since I knew he slept through the last three innings. Like any good magic trick, I could never figure out how he did it. It’s funny sometimes what you remember about a person. I spent my entire childhood with him in that house, and these are two of the memories that come to my mind first when it comes to my dad. Of course, they do illustrate two important points from my upbringing: he was the adult in charge, so I had to do what he said; and he possessed skills I didn’t understand. Once I was clear on those things, my life was a lot easier growing up. I only wish I knew how to pass those lessons on to my own two sons.