It’s been just over 9 months since Don died, and I can now say with conflicted emotion, that I’ve been seeing someone new. He doesn’t do very much in the way of taking me out, giving me compliments, or making my soul feel alive again. In fact, he doesn’t do very much at all. He just sits there. But when I look at him, I feel everything from escape to laughter to noise to another opportunity for zoning out of my new life.
If I’m being truthful, I have been seeing this guy my whole life, even when Don and I were married. Actually; Don was seeing him too. We watched and enjoyed him together. We had a wonderful little threesome thing going on. It was very kinky. Now I watch him alone, and it feels like I’m seeing someone new, because my relationship with him has changed immensely since my husband’s death. If you want to know his name, I’ll tell you: Tommy Vera. I call him T.V. for short. (he was named for people on television: Tommy for my favorite host Tom Bergeron, and Vera for the waitress on the sitcom Alice.)
Ever since I was a little kid, I have always loved T.V. Always. It was entertainment, and it was a comfort. And even when I was a kid, I always wanted to be ON television. I was fascinated by the whole thing. A box inside my living room that was filled with hundreds of different people. Everyday I’d come home from school just before 3pm, and mom would sit me down with my afternoon snack, and General Hospital would be on in the background. I started to slowly pay attention to it, and became engrossed in Luke and Laura and the Ice Princess and the stupid Weather Machine. I found the show silly and fascinating and ridiculous and funny. Today, over 30 years later, I still have it on my DVR and watch it to wind myself down at night. There were so many shows I loved as a kid: The Muppet Show and The Carol Burnett Show both gave me that same feeling of warm laughter, and that everything would be okay. Brady Bunch reruns made me feel cozy and protected, and Family Ties had me giggling like hell, and gave me one of my first real crushes in Michael J. Fox.
Don and I used to watch a lot of T.V. together. Some people might look down on that or on us or say that it’s “bad” to have the TV on so much in a home or marriage. Those people suck and I dont really care what they think. My husband and I did plenty of things with our lives, and spent loads of time outside discoving the world together. But, after work, most evenings, we would sit in our tiny apartment together in our bedroom, the only room with air-conditioning and computer and a BED, and watch TV.
Like every married couple, we had our rhythms and our patterns and our ways of doing things. Lots of times, I would make popcorn and we would both sit in bed and cuddle up for a great episode of House. Don got me into that show, and then I was hooked by the sarcasm, hilariousness, utter pain, and therefore sexiness of Hugh Laurie’s character. We would always have to pause the show or DVR so he could explain to me in english what the fuck the patient actually had. He used to drive me crazy because he had a short-attention span, and sometimes when we were watching a show together, he would randomly get up and leave the room. He would come back five minutes later, and then ask me “So what happened? What was the diagnosis?” “Where the hell did you go?”, I’d say. “I dont know what the hell the patient has! You always explain that to me. I have no idea what they are talking about!” Or we would watch Cash Cab and I couldn’t even answer the first two questions. “Who the hell knows this shit?”, I’d say. The answer was Don. Don knew that shit. He knew all kinds of random trivia, facts, and things that would just surprise the hell out of me all the time. He loved documentaries. Anything on The History or Discovery or Learning Channel was a show that he wanted to watch. I used to walk into the living room sometimes and there would be some boring thing on the TV that he would be engrossed in. I would mock him: “What is this – a 12 part documentary on the Making of Plywood?” He never missed a beat. “Actually, it’s a 15 parter, and it’s about sheet-rock. Smart Ass.”
We had a lot of shows that we watched together though. South Park was one of his absolute favorites. I miss listening to his laugh while watching that show. Listening to him laugh was sometimes more fun than watching the show for me. His laugh was deep and inviting, and his shoulders and whole body would move. Sometimes he wouldn’t make any actual noise until a few seconds into the laugh; but you’d just see his head drop down his neck and start to shake. We both loved Modern Family, and he had a gigantic crush on Sofia Vergada. We also loved Rescue Me, Men of a Certain Age, Mad Men, Louie, and Intervention. We both had a different approach to that last one. We would take bets on whether or not the addict would survive or fail at the end of the episode. I liked it when they got off the drugs or alcohol, while Don loved a great epic trainwreck. “Oh, this asshole’s gonna fail!”, he would say in the first 5 minutes of the show. Then, when the inevitable text at the end with the sad music would say: “Two weeks later, Joe was kicked out of rehab and now drinks 2 bottles of vodka a day”, Don would scream, “Yes! I knew it!” and be oddly ecstatic at this total stranger’s misery. He was the same way with shows like COPS, Hoarders, Parking Wars, and even The Biggest Loser. He always found it hilarious when the people who had whatever dysfunction, walked away a bigger mess than when they started.
Since I’ve been writing TV Reviews for Poptimal.com for a few years now, Don and I would always watch the shows I’d cover together: American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, America’s Got Talent. I would pause the shows and take notes for what to type into my review later on, and he would make hilarious comments that I would usually end up using in the review. “That’s funny as hell. I’m stealing that!”, I’d say. He loved when I would use his jokes, and he loved reading my reviews. He would sit at the computer, reading it, and quoting me back to me. Then he would say sweetly: “Boo is funny.” He had a major crush on pro dancer Cheryl Burke from DWTS, and we both thought Ryan Seacrest was a major douchebag. We always disliked and mocked the same people, so watching TV together was a blast. So many times, Don’s comments at a show or a commercial would make me laugh harder than what we were watching.
Now; since his death; TV watching has become a whole new experience, and my relationship with television is so much different than it used to be. It used to be entertainment – now it’s a lifeline. The second I walk into this lonely apartment where there is no more noise of a husband, I put on the TV. I need to feel and hear noise. It is necessary for survival. If I can’t talk to anyone while I’m at home, then I need to hear fake characters talking to other fake characters on my TV. More than half the time I have the TV on, Im not watching it or paying attention to it at all. But it’s very important that it’s on. Some people use music in this same way; as soon as they are home, they turn on background music. I cannot do this, because Don was music. Every song on earth reminds me of him in a painful, hurtful, sad way; and since I can no longer hear HIS music when he would strum his guitars for hours; listening to CD’s would only make me extremely sad right now.
Sometimes I feel like I’m nuts when I watch TV alone now. I pretend he is sitting on the bed with me, or at the computer desk, and I will talk to him during a show. Sometimes this helps; most times I just feel incredibly silly and start to cry. Watching the season premiere of Mad Men last week made me sad. He would have loved it when Roger said: “Is it just me, or are there a bunch of negros in our lobby?” I can just hear him busting a gut over that line. I have 4 episodes of South Park and 5 of House all sitting on my DVR, unwatched. I haven’t been able to bring myself to sit through them without Don’s commentary. I got through the first few minutes of the season premiere of South Park, and then burst into tears. I also haven’t sat through very many Yankee games without my husband. He died right in the middle of baseball season, and so I went from watching every single day, to not watching at all. That was one of our favorite things to follow together … baseball. Now I just sort of “keep an eye on the game” while doing other things. If I find myself totally paying attention, I will be sobbing within seconds. I still can’t believe Don doesn’t get to know that Andy Pettite is back, or that Posada retired, or that Chamberlain is out for the season because he injured himself JUMPING ON A TRAMPOLINE! I don’t know how long it will be before I can go to Yankee Stadium again. I just don’t know.
TV has become something new in my life since losing my husband. It has, in a sense, become another relationship. There are times when I am watching something, anything really, and I will just start crying. Sometimes it is due to what’s happening on the show or even the commercial, because I have become extra sensitive and now cry at the drop of a hat, or at Kodak camera and Oreo ads. But other times. the tears have nothing to do with what is being said on the screen. Sometimes, I am just using the TV to zone out. I am watching something mindless so that I don’t have to pay attention to it, so that I don’t have to be a widow for an hour or two. Sometimes it’s a form of escape, and sometimes it’s another reminder.
I feel like an old lady, sitting at home with my afghan, waiting for my “stories” to come on the TV. Are Jason and Franco brothers? Who will be the next Bachelor couple to get engaged and then break up 3 months later? Is Lisa Lampanelli gonna punch a bitch on The Apprentice? Does anyone else but me realize that Wendy Williams is actually a man? How many more years will The Office continue to pretend it’s relevant without the genius of Steve Carell? Why are there 200 violent shows about cupcake making? How many cities will get their very own CSI? Wouldnt it be ironic if Chris Hanson turned out to be an internet pedophile? I wonder if he likes cookies and juice. Do the people at 20/20 really think we dont notice they are using some sort of weird technology to fade out the wrinkles and creepiness of Barbara Walters hands, skin, and face? How will House end? Why do they keep giving Rachel Ray more shows, even though her voice sounds like she swallowed a cheese-grater?
All of these things are distractions, and reminders, that my life is completely different now. Some people use drugs, alcohol, and other destructive things to dull the pain that life can bring. I’m not cool enough for anything like that, and in my attempt to NOT use food as my addiction of choice like I have in the past, I have turned to good ‘ole Tommy Vera. My new love. My new husband. He is a lazy, no good, piece of shit who needs to get off his flat ass and get a job … but at least he makes enough noise to trick me into thinking I’m not always alone.