I sit in my parents’ living room. It’s hot and it’s stuffy. Anyone else in the room is asleep. My only company left is “Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of The Baskervilles,” a version I first saw, with my father in this same room, just two weeks ago. When it started playing, just after I showed up at the house, I told my father, “Oh look. We saw this movie a week or two ago.” For anybody else, it would have been a subtle hint. For my father, it was a bone of contention, an argument.
“No we didn’t.”
“Sure we did. Remember? See look at that guy, remember him?”
“No. Who is he?”
“Well I don’t remember the actor’s name. But look at him, doesn’t he look familiar?”
My father turns from looking at me to looking at the television set, already drifting to a negative head shake before he even completes the turn.
“I remember.” I say. “Richard E. Grant! If I’m right, the opening credits will list Richard E. Grant.”
We stare at the television. The opening credits begin, peppered liberally with scenes of a murder and the body being found. Finally, right at the end, the words “and Richard E. Grant” scroll down the screen.
“See?” I say, turning to look at my father.
My mother once told me that when her parents died, she felt like she was doing something wrong simply by staying alive. Or that’s how I interpreted what she said. What she actually said was that, when her parents died, she felt as if she had stayed in a place, like a room or at a party, after her parents had vocally disapproved of it and left. I suppose if I had been in an argumentative mood, I could have challenged her. After all her father died more than 25 years earlier than her mother. Get your story straight. They died so far apart, you couldn’t really have been worried about “both” of their approvals. So who was it?
An excellent argument in debate class, but hardly the answer to give when your mother is confessing something so deeply twisted, it can only be a measurement of how much therapy you may stand to need to pay for in the future.
No matter, whichever parent, she must be in his/her good graces again. After her death but before his stroke, my father wore his loss and how much he missed her like a deodorant or a cologne. It clung to him. He was never without it. Now she never comes up.
Well once. When I asked him why he watches so much television. He gave me a look as if I had asked the dumbest question imaginable.
“Because I can watch whatever I want now.”
The woman he used to tell me was the love of his life reduced to the woman who hogged the remote.
On the television screen, Dr. Watson accompanies Lord Baskerville to his family estate. I look longingly at the remote sitting on the coffee table in front of my sleeping father. I can’t bring myself to change the channel. For one thing, I know that the minute I rise from my chair, the sleeping spell that has taken the room will be broken. For another, I know I am here to visit my father, not watch television. Somehow, sitting watching something he chose, even if he is sleeping through it, fills that criteria. Changing the channel to something I might like to see, does not.
The thermostat, apparently unaware the room is already hot, triggers the heater and as it comes on, my eyes snap open. I haven’t even been aware they were shut. I lean forward, my elbows to my knees and focus on the television in an attempt to stay awake.
After awhile, my father rouses.
“You know?” He says, catching my attention. “I think I’ve seen this before.”
I turn and stare at the screen as if all of the possible responses I might give were written there.
“You know?” I say, turning back to face him. “Me too.”