My Dad Used to Talk to the TV

Yup, he told Lawrence Welk that the Lennon Sisters should sing in every other number, and told Walter Brennan he needed to do a better job in protecting the McCoys. He told Walter Cronkite that Americans were bullies in the Vietnam War, and let Lyndon Johnson know that lives were being wasted in a stupid war. He let Vic Morrow know that he was the hero in Combat, and informed Sargeant Joe Friday when a clue was right under is nose.

Dad liked serious shows, like Gunsmoke and Route 66. He disapproved of comedies. So when Dick Van Dyke and Carol Burnett came on, Dad shifted his conversation to me and Mom. He told us how silly they were and that watching them were a waste of time. Somehow, Red Skelton escaped his critique.

Ed Sullivan was hit or miss for Dad. He liked Louis Armstrong; the Beatles were definitely out. Elvis was okay as long as he sang gospel music. Forget the pelvic gyrations.

Dad made it through the third grade. He was orphaned at 14, and was raised by Catholic nuns in the town of Narvacan in the Ilocos Sur province ofthe Philippines. In 1946, at 19 years old, he immigrated to Hawaii to work on the plantation in Lanai City in Hawaii. There was no real city on that tiny island and plantaton life was not his idea of America, so he moved to the main island of Oahu. He worked as a housekeeper at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki. When he retired in 1975, he was the longest standing employee — 30 years.

To put my brother and me through parochial schools, he took on a second job as a waiter in a Waikiki restaurant. He’d work from 8AM to 4PM at the hotel, eat a quick dinner, change and go off to his restaurant job at 5:45. He’d come home after 11PM, smelling of his customers’ cigarette smoke. On weekends, I used to stay up and help him count his tips.

When Dad was home, the tv was his to command. My brother and I were the “remote control,” and we took turns changing the channel. There were only three.

The television was my Dad’s binoculars to the world. He watched the news whenever he could, and knew the events and capitals of many countries. He was very critical of the United States in foreign affairs, and yet when I was a teenage peacenik, he chided me for not appreciating my own country. He remained a citizen of the Philippines throughout his life.

The television was also his main companion after he retired and my mom continued to work. He’d call me at work just to chat, and I could hear Judge Judy in the background. I could only imagine what he told her.

One day in my office, he asked me, “What is dot com?” I did a brief tour on my computer and he was amazed. “Who’s doing all that? . . . How do you know that’s true? . . . Can people see me?”

He was flabbergasted when we IM’d my son Marco. “You mean he’s sitting in front of his computer right now? How did he know I’m in your office?” When my mom made a couple of witty remarks in her IM with Marco, he chided her, “Don’t joke like that!” Always the serious commentator.

He never had a computer because that was “just for smart people.” But I think he would have eventually succumbed to technology had he lived longer. He would not be able to resist another pair of binoculars, another landing for his commentary.

I can just see him now, talking to the computer. He would read this blog and say, “You mean everybody in the world can read about me?” And “Shouldn’t there be serious picture of me instead?”

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