Little Spouse On The Prairie: Companionable Silence

Dec 22, 2018

As the classes I am both teaching and taking wind down this semester, I find myself so busy that I am neglecting my husband. Guilt plagues me.  In an attempt to assuage some of it, I have taken to typing in bed.  That way, I am spending quality time with Joel in one of his favorite spots. 

Now that Joel has retired, he’s taken on some projects of his own, one of which is watching all eight seasons of The Andy Griffith Show.  There are 249 episodes of Joel’s favorite sitcom, and he’s only seen them five times apiece, so this re-watching is important to his understanding of the philosophy and symbolism of Mayberry. 

Joel has loaded these episodes onto his laptop, which makes for comfortable viewing.  Feet crossed and propped on a pillow, laptop on his belly, head reclined on several more pillows, Joel is able to fully appreciate the intricate nuances of Barney Fife’s character and Gomer Pyle’s moral and theoretical revelations.

Joel has been only too happy to have my company while he watches the shows, headphones in, so as not to disturb my work.  On the first night, we tried this new and exciting bedroom activity, I was determined to accomplish a lot. 

Listeners might remember that Joel has suffered a bit of hearing loss as he has aged, so he has to turn the volume on his headphones way up in order to understand the show’s dialogue.  This is convenient for me, because I am then able to hear every word Sheriff Taylor has to say, and unlike Joel, I’ve only seen the 249 episodes twice apiece (he watched the whole show through three times before we got together, so I unfortunately missed out on his first few viewings). 

Apparently, the loud volume on the headphones also blocks out all other sounds, so Joel isn’t even aware that he follows the same behavioral sequence throughout each 30-minute episode. Joel was a talented basketball player, and he still understands the importance of mental rehearsal and following strict, repetitive protocols for success.  I’m pretty sure that these routines make it possible for Joel to grasp at the deeper, theoretical implications of Opie’s rites of passage.

Ten minutes into the installment - I believe it was the Aunt Bea/ pickle episode - Joel took a sip of his Dr. Pepper.  Now, up to this point in my life, I am not sure I understood what drinking a beverage lying on one’s back sounds like. I think I may have used this comparison before, but the sound resembled my dad’s Honey Wagon, which, for those of you who don’t know, is a giant vacuum for suctioning excrement out of a cesspit.  The sip was followed by a soft, but long, burp.  Then, he chewed the ice that had followed the drink into his mouth.  A few moments later, apparently as the beverage made its way through Joel’s body, his stomach gurgled.  Then he snickered.

I wouldn’t have thought much of the incident, except that the sequence repeated itself in exactly the same order, at intervals of three minutes.  I’m not making this up. Manure-suction slurp. Long, soft belch. Crunching of ice. Stomach gurgle. Snicker.

We had gone through four complete cycles before we kicked into the sniffling.  When Andy and Barney replaced Aunt Bea’s horrible kerosene-flavored pickles with store-bought ones, Joel got emotional.  I mean, one can hardly blame the poor guy.  Every time Joel watches these gems, he experiences, again, the agony of those characters, trying to protect Aunt Bea’s feelings while also avoiding the fate of having to eat the disgusting pickles. The dramatic conflict is the stuff of despair, people. 

Though I didn’t make much progress on typing my research essay, I did come to a deeper revelation: Joel is like those actors whose bodies become so attuned to the characters they are playing that they have involuntary, physical responses.  Joel is a man who has fine-tuned his own bodily functions to the point that they involuntarily mesh with art, following a protocol down to a fraction of a second.  My fragile ego can’t work next to that kind of genius.  I’m going to have to return to the home office for my next typing session.