Sunday, October 28, 2007

Stranger In The House

A few years after I was born, my Dad met a stranger
who was new to our small hometown.
From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting
newcomer and soon invited him to live with our
family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was
around from then on.

As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my
family. In my young mind, he had a special niche.
My parents were complementary instructors: Mom
taught me good from evil, and Dad taught me to
obey. But the stranger...he was our storyteller. He
would keep us spellbound for hours on end with
adventures, mysteries and comedies.

If I wanted to know anything about politics,
history or science, he always knew the answers about
the past, understood the present and even seemed
able to predict the future! He took my family to
the first major league ball game. He made me laugh,
and he made me cry. The stranger never stopped
talking, but Dad didn't seem to mind.

Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest
of us were shushing each other to listen to what he
had to say, and she would go to the kitchen for
peace and quiet. (I wonder now if she ever prayed
for the stranger to leave.)

Dad ruled our household with certain moral
convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated
to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not
allowed in our home... Not from us, our friends or
any visitors. Our longtime visitor, however, got
away with four-letter words that burned my ears and
made my dad squirm and my mother blush.

My Dad didn't permit the liberal use of alcohol.
But the stranger encouraged us to try it on a
regular basis. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars
manly and pipes distinguished. He talked freely
(much too freely!) about sex. His comments were
sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and
generally embarrassing.

I now know that my early concepts about
relationships were influenced strongly by the
stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of
my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked... And NEVER
asked to leave. He monopolized our dinner time
conversations, walks or tossing the ball around
after dinner was a thing of the past, the stranger
held more interest for us than the outdoors. Books
were no longer purchased or read, we found the
stranger more fascinating than reading.

More than fifty years have passed since the
stranger moved in with our family. He has blended
right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was
at first. Still, if you could walk into my parents'
den today, you would still find him sitting over in
his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him
talk and watch him draw his pictures. His name...
We just call him, "TV."

A few years ago his wife moved in too!....We call her "Computer."