His TVs were ancient, the screens small, the images dull, the words that scrolled at the bottom impossible for him to read.
“What you need are new TVs,” my husband and I told my Uncle LeRoy last week when we landed on his doorstep for a two-day visit.
We hadn’t even unpacked when we realized our mission: We could make my 95-year-old uncle’s life — which he never complains about — better. Why hadn’t we thought of this before?
“You will love watching sports on a smart TV screen,” my husband declared with a passion he reserves solely for sports. “The images are so clear that you can see the nose hairs on football players.”
This piqued LeRoy’s interest. “Plus, TVs are not expensive anymore,” I added, knowing that the last time he bought a television set they were. “And, while we’re here, we can set them up for you,” I declared with a conviction born of ignorance and optimism.
And so it came to pass that my husband and I borrowed my uncle’s car and drove to Costco in Clearwater, Fla., where, in less than 10 minutes, we purchased one 55-inch and one 44-inch TV. “Just plug them in and the TVs will walk you through the set-up process,” the young man who sold us the sets promised.
And we believed him.
The first challenge was attaching the TV’s legs to the TV. Which leg was left and which was right? They looked the same. “Secure with screws.” Huh? There we were, sprawled on the living room floor, stymied.
We phoned for help. Trish, who looks after my uncle, is younger and has better eyes. She arrived, found the holes in the TV’s base, found a Phillips head screwdriver in the garage, and voila, the TV had legs.
And then? And then we discovered that these new and bigger TVs did not fit onto old and smaller stands. So we improvised: The three of us emptied a dining room credenza and dragged it — while moving every piece of furniture in its way — into the living room. Lifted the big TV onto the credenza. And the TV fit, but the legs didn’t. So my husband drove to Home Depot and bought a wider shelf.
The 55-inch TV was now good to go.
We plugged it in. Attached the cable box. Put batteries in the remote. And clicked.
For the next day and a half, we clicked again and again and again and again. We clicked cable. We clicked TV and cable simultaneously on the TV remote and then on the cable remote. Sometimes, the TV turned on. And when it did, it was a thing of beauty. Big. Bright. Breathtaking. But it was mercurial. The TV didn’t turn on consistently. It had to be cajoled.
We talked to the cable provider, once, twice, three, four times, punched in codes, called Costco’s concierge service, and finally got it working. Never use the TV remote unless the cable remote fails, we were warned. The cable remote failed a few hours later. We used the TV remote and it was back to square one.
It took another full day, but we finally got both TVs — the one in the bedroom and the one in the living room — hooked up and responding to our commands. When my uncle looked up from his chair and said with a trace of wonder, “You really can see the nose hairs on those football players!” I thought, we did it! Mission accomplished. We have made my uncle’s life better.
I opened a bottle of Prosecco to toast our success.
That night, there was a wind storm. And the electricity went out. And cable went out with it. And every bit of setup we had accomplished, every bit of progress we had made, was erased.
My uncle rolled with it. It’ll come back on, he said.
And it did.
Before the storm, when the TV was working, we turned it off to play cribbage. My father, who was LeRoy’s older brother, taught us both the game. The rules LeRoy learned are the rules that I learned and are the same rules that children learn today. In a world of epic change, I find comfort in the constancy of this.
We got out the old board, which is missing a peg (a toothpick takes its place), shuffled the cards, cut the deck and LeRoy dealt. He always beats me. “Fifteen two, fifteen four, a pair is six, and the right jack is seven.” He never misses the right jack. This time we played three games and he skunked me in the first.
After, I put the board away and he walked into his bedroom. I heard the TV come on and I heard him say, “Well, look at that! It’s beautiful.” And I stood for a minute and watched him, sitting in his chair, eyes on the screen, remote in hand, smiling.
Beverly Beckham’s column appears every two weeks. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.