My father was not one to laugh a whole lot, at least in the company of others. Most of the time he seemed weighed down by the pressures of his life – our home, his business, other financial matters perhaps. It is for this reason that I so fondly remember those few times that he laughed heartily around us.
One of these times was the first night that our home had cable television. Our tiny, rural town had just been connected to a cable network and our house had been hooked up earlier on that late September afternoon in 1982.
We had experienced cable before, especially me. My sister had gone away to college a few years earlier and when I went to visit her, I would always stay up as late as possible, watching HBO and whatever else I could find on her TV. I was especially excited because we now had not one, but three premium movie channels to choose from, as well as several other standard cable channels of that time – TBS, USA, ESPN, and others.
That night came our first opportunity to dive into the world of cable television together as a family. The movie “Airplane!” was on HBO.
Mom and I were watching it in our den and Daddy was watching it in his room. He always watched TV in his room by himself at night. I think that was his way of escaping away by himself. He had to deal with people all day at work, so that was his time to relax and be himself. As my mom and I watched “Airplane!”, every so often he would walk through the den and ask us if we’d seen such and such part of the movie. Yes we had. A couple of times we laughed about one scene or another.
Finally, he decided to stay in the den and watch the movie with us. He rarely sat down in the den at night. Come to think of it, he rarely sat down in the den at all. At any rate, I remember thinking that it was nice that we could all sit there and watch TV together. We three kept laughing at all the funny parts of the movie.
Finally, one scene pushed us over the edge. We lost it when a lady on board the plane has a panic attack and the stewardess (as they were called in that day – now they are “flight attendants”) begins slapping her face to calm her down. The camera pans down the inside of the plane, and we see a line of people waiting to get their turn at her. They are all holding something – a wrench, a baseball bat, a crowbar . The three of us were rolling with laughter. I looked over at Daddy and he was laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes. I remember that he had to take off his glasses so he could wipe them with the handkerchief he always kept handy in his pocket. I don’t think I ever saw him laugh so hard as he did at that moment, either before or after. It was a great evening to be together as a family.
Every time I think about “Airplane” that special night comes to mind. It reminds me that there are many good times to be had in life. Sometimes they’re planned, and other times they just happen. And sometimes you don’t realize they’re happening until long after they’ve ended.