Deathbed Jeopardy

Family History for Two Hundred, Art
The answer is like watching “Jeopardy” when I was a kid?
The question is what was touch football for the Kennedys?

We were Art Fleming groupies, and the long-playing television quiz show is like a blood sport for my family. My father, who studied agriculture and biology in college and loves history, was the absolute master of the game. Sitting on the edge of his chair, Dad shot answers like a human shotgun.

Dead German Botanists for Four Hundred, Art
Dad yelled, “What is ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny?”
And the question is, “What was the catchphrase of German biologist Ernst Haeckler that means like father, like son?”

My mother, brother, and I watched in horror as he ran most categories. If my mom could get a word in, she was a winner in art, music and children’s literature. As I grew older, I could hold my own with dad. I wouldn’t always beat him, but we were well matched especially in history and geography.

Then there was a new sheriff in town. I married Randy, a double major in English literature and journalism, with a minor in history. He went to graduate school for library science.

Best Professions of “Jeopardy” Winners for Six Hundred, Alex
The answers are Fact Finder and Research Librarian.
And the question is what are the two best professions for “Jeopardy” winners?

Weird factoid. Ken Jennings, the most winning player in “Jeopardy” history, was a fact-finder for World Book. (It’s possible I made that up, but what do I know. I’m not a fact finder or a research librarian.)

So, Mister “Well, I was an English major” could beat both my father and me, with one hand tied behind his back. And he made it look so easy. Watching Randy play “Jeopardy” is like watching Esther Williams swim or Mohammed Ali throw punches.

For the thirty-four years of our marriage, I’ve tried to beat him at “Jeopardy.” The last time I got decent categories (European Art History, Broadway musicals, Fountain Pens, and Random 1950s Candy Bars), he was having a colonoscopy, and I ran these categories in the waiting room (much to the surprise of the other patrons.)

When we’re together he’ll get favorable categories like Obscure Reference Questions of the 1980s, pre-World War II figurines, Baseball Cards My Mom Tossed, John Milton or Milton Berle (either one works), Famous Short Guards of the American Basketball Association, and Lyrics From Every Rock and Roll CD Ever Recorded. He wins.

Then there was yesterday. Both of us have had late-season Influenza Type A. Sunday, he was so ill that he missed an entire day, sleeping, moaning, snoring, and talking gibberish. Yesterday, he wasn’t much better as he sat in our living room recliners, covered with a huge raspberry-colored plush blanket. As Jed Clampett would say, “Pitiful, pitiful.” Now, this sounds like a real “Jeopardy” competitor for me, doesn’t it?

This was my moment. I am so feeling it.  And I’m hearing Wagnerian opera voicing in the background.  My moment. Mine. Mine. 

Our recliners, which I call the Chairs of Death, face the TV in our living room. I call them the Chair of Death because it’s really tempting to stay there all the time, play Candy Crush, drink Coke Zero, and watch reruns of “Fraser.” Staying in a recliner all day is very bad for one’s health. Thus, Chairs of Death.

Randy roused from under his plush blanket in his Chair of Death. I came into the room, trash-talking him. Yeah, kick him when he’s down. My moment. Mine.

Alex Trebek introduced the Jeopardy round. Two of the categories included “Dead Poets Society” and “Broadway Characters.” My moment. Mine.

But something terrible happened. From down deep inside him, Randy’s husky, a phlegm-soaked voice rose above the “Jeopardy” theme, and he called out answers as he always does.

Dead Poets Society for 1200, Alex
Randy whipped me on an Edgar Allen Poe question. Had it been “The Raven,” I swear to all that is holy I would have pulled my telltale heart out of my chest right then and there. (My middle name is LeNore, and I’m a Poe fanatic.) The poem in the question was “Annabelle Lee,” my second favorite Poe poem. I thought about throwing myself in a sepulcher by the sea, but somebody upright needed to go to Walmart for yogurt, tissues, and Vapo-Rub. Quoth the raven, evermore.

He wins. I lose. Not my moment. Not ever. But in my mind, I envision the deathbed of the 99- year-old Randy, in a hospital Craftmatic Adjustable Bed, surrounded by our son, nieces, and nephews, concerned medical workers, and assorted old fans of the American Basketball League. Randy tells us his deathbed wish is watching “Jeopardy” (with host Steve Harvey) with the loved ones in his room. Can’t you see it? Can’t you hear Louis Armstrong singing, “What a Wonderful World?” Do you feel the love tonight?

We turn on the TV, and I think, “This is it. He’s out of it. My moment. Mine.”

(I tell my husband this fantasy and  he puts my 124-year-old father in the scene, yelling “What is Photosynthesis?”)  Everybody’s a critic.

But neither Whimsical Centenarian Grandpa or my Turning Blue Husband wins this round. Now, let’s go to Final Jeopardy!

There’s a new sheriff in town. And it’s our son who despite his obvious grief over his father’s terrible illness steps up and gives his Dad the shellacking I’ve always dreamed of.  A precious moment.

Beating Randy at “Jeopardy” for five thousand, Alex?
The answer is Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny
The question is who is the only person who can beat Randy at Jeopardy?

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