Skip to main content

Life without Television, Part 2

Dashing! Father Brown on PBS
I began life without television with relief, which was consistent Monday through Friday. The first few weekends, though, felt awkward, anxious, lonely. When PBS has good programming on Saturday nights, it is extraordinarily good. Father Brown, Phryne Fisher, New Tricks... Extraordinary acting, high production values, and I fantasize about the pudgy, brilliant priest just perhaps having an innocent crush on one of his special parishioners, which would be moi. 

I called a friend one Sunday. "Maybe television helped with my anxiety more than I realized," I said. She told me about her aunt who, after her husband's death, kept the television on in his "man cave" 24/7. He has been gone years now. The television goes on, everlasting, in his absence. I don't blame her. Much of my frequent and prolonged television viewing began with grief.

After my sister died, I would watch almost anything, especially late at night when sleep eluded me. I even watched Convoy with Kris Kristofferson and Ali McGraw. That one stands out in my mind, because it was sooooo slooowwww. I watched programs my sister liked, whether I liked them or not. I watched Reba. I started watching NCIS LA. I kept my commitment to NCIS LA for four years. It was like having a date with my sister after she was gone.

Life without television has taught me something about loss in general. When grief is recent and acute, we develop ways to cope with it. We find "places" to escape where we feel less. Just less: less pain, interest, awareness, just less. Television is one fine antidote to sickness and grief. I say that without sarcasm. It can make you laugh and feel less alone--somewhere in the world someone else is watching what you are. Sometimes television is a big, thick bookmark between the page you are on and the next page you would rather not read, where the author confirms that this loss will cut across your life from now on.

Watching television helped give me relief from grief and granted welcome distraction. I've learned, though, that it's important for my patterns during active grieving not to become patterns for the rest of my life. Habit is powerful, addicting. Buttons are easy to push. The black screen stared at me and said, "Come on, you don't have to be alone. I'm here for you, remember?" I do remember, with no small amount of gratitude.

Home on the Rock, Ysabel de la Rosa
I am also grateful, though, to have lived long enough to experience that beautiful line from Psalm 30: "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." We cannot know how long that night of weeping will endure, but it can indeed come to an end and take us into morning light.

Looking at the empty corner where my big grey television once dwelled, ever ready to grant me sound, music, company, intrigue, comedy, and helpful information, I give thanks that I was ready to let my weeping-time friend go and move on to morning joy.

In this new silence, it is easier for me to recall my sister's beautiful perfect-pitch voice. I'm not catching Dame Maggie Smith's zingers on Downtown Abbey, nor Sheldon Cooper's brilliant bazinga lines, but the exchange is more than fair. The silence is new and still feels strange. But in that silence, I can hear my loved one sing, can catch her winged invitation to join in the mystic music from beyond. We always did love choir.



Popular posts from this blog

Our Texas, My Texas: "Memories we carry like scars and diamonds"

This post title includes a quote from Hermine Pinson's poem, "Four Sisters and the Dance." As you read, it will become clear why.

I was 7 when my father earned his Ph.D. from Duke. He then accepted a teaching position at a small private college in a rural Texas town in the 1960s. Population was 5,000, give or take a few. Our Texas roots ran deep, and we saw this return to the Lone Star State as a homecoming. So, I left the lyrical landscape of the Carolinas and the small private school where I had become nearly fluent in French. Then, I entered the hot, dry world of that small town. 

We did not yet have a place to live. Our family of five, including our infant brother, camped out in the girls' dorm for several weeks. Our furniture was stored on the university theater stage while my parents searched for a home. I was riding in the car with my dad and a member of the university administration and overheard their conversation. My father wondered where he could find help …

Whose day?

Years ago, I made some collages using pages from a desk calendar from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The image that leads this post is one. Inside the hearts and flowers is a picture from the MMA collection of  a Japanese screen made in the 16th century. It is titled Tagasode, which means Whose sleeves?  The title comes from a 10th-century poem:

The fragrance seems even more alluring than the hue, Whose sleeves have brushed past? Or would it be this plum tree blossoming here at home?
Iro yori mo ka koso awaredo omohoyure tagasode fureshi ado no ume zo mo
The word haunts: tagasode. Whose sleeves? The question floats in my mind like a cloud on a still day. The sleeves materialize in my mind's eye. I hear them move through hushed air. I can imagine, though not name, the scent of the person to whom those sleeves belong. It's not unlike smelling the scent of your infant's clothes, or holding the perfume bottle that belonged to your don't need to open it... you know tha…