Those of you who know me well, might want to read this post sitting down. Then take care not to fall off your chair.
For others, let me fill you in on some background material.
I, personally, have not owned a television set for nearly 30 years. TV-less by choice, I called it. And I was hard core, a proud member of the 1% of Americans who ban television from their homes--often lending my dog-eared copy of Jerry Mander's book, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television out to would-be converts. That book delves deeply into the psycho-social effects of television on individuals and society as a whole. The author describes the conscious state a person enters into while watching television as a state of "wakeful dreaming" that is close to hypnotism. My own personal belief was that TV was not only a big time waster, but a brain numbing addiction, a social isolator and a way to miss out on "real life".
When Bob moved in with me in 1994, he owned a television set. I told him, in no uncertain terms, would I allow it in my apartment. We argued. I think that was our first argument. Then, we compromised. He could be bring the TV if he put it in the closet.
Which he did. Then after a few months of learning to live without television, he sold it.
People used to ask us all the time, what on earth did we do if we didn't watch TV? When we told them we talked to each other, that our nightly ritual was to sit out on our front porch and just talk, people asked, "What on earth do you talk about after 15 years of marriage?"
Well, we talked about everything. How our day how gone. The weather. The neighborhood gossip. The news in the newspaper. My writing. His art. Books we were reading. We talked about absolutely everything.
Then about 4 years ago, Bob came home from a neighborhood garage sale carrying an old TV set and a DVD player. I nearly dropped my jaw. What are you doing with that thing?! I asked him. He told me he had bought it for $5.00 and wanted to put it in the back bedroom which he used for his office. Don't worry, he told me, it wouldn't be connected to cable or an antennae, and we'd only use it on special occasions to watch a movie on a rental DVD.
Then, three years ago: the stroke and aphasia. And the end of our nightly conversations...
Before Bob came home from the hospital, I had my dad and my uncle help me re-arrange the living room. Out went the Victorian parlor set, to make room for Bob's hospital bed. In came that TV set and DVD player and the 1940's sofa from Bob's office...
Since then we've watched a lot DVD's. I would run every week to the library where one can check out DVD's for seven days for free. After three years of this, I do believe, we've seen every movie on the shelf -- some of them twice. And that old television set was on it's last legs...
The sad thing was, that, when a DVD wasn't playing or I wasn't available to occupy him with some task or therapy, Bob was pretty much lying in his hospital bed staring at the ceiling and fixating on his pain...
So for Christmas, I broke down. And, with the help of Santa Claus, bought a 32 inch HD flat screen Panasonic television set. Then hooked the whole thing up DISH satellite's cheapest plan. And I still can't believe I've done that. And I'm still trying to figure out how the thing works. And I hope I can pay the monthly bill!
I am still no fan of television, which I find extremely distracting and addictive, and I know this is going to take some getting used to, on my part. Even right now, while I write this, Bob is watching a movie and the sound of it keeps interrupting my train of thought. I tell you, it's hard to blog with the television blaring in the background!
It's also hard to admit that our lives have changed so much since this stroke. And to admit a bit of acceptance of the fact that our lives will never return to the way it used to be.
So we've joined the 99% of Americans who have network television in their homes. Make that 99.1%!