My dad and I had a ritual that began when I was in junior high. Every couple of weeks, I’d get off the bus after school and notice his car sitting in the driveway. That meant he had knocked off early from work not only to beat me home, but also to beat me at our favorite game show, Jeopardy! We both had developed a fixation with this program. Rice-A-Roni was also part of the ritual. Couldn’t tell you why. But each time I would walk through the door, I’d find my dad at the stove, stirring a saucepan full of our favorite Jeopardy! snack. We’d quickly fill our bowls with a heaping helping of that starchy goodness and settle in for a half-hour of answers and questions.
My dad never went easy on me. Didn’t matter that he had 35 more years of worldly experience; his goal was to destroy me each and every time we played. In fact, if he cleared a category, he would looked over with a huge grin and point at me so that it was perfectly obvious just how awesome he was at this game. A lot of categories were cleared and many fingers pointed.
I never cleared a category. I mean, seriously, I was 12. I was lucky if I got 10 questions right during a show. But as the years went by, I slowly gained on my father. By the time I was a senior in high school, I could even do some finger pointing of my own. He still could obliterate me in American history, though. If the Civil War or U.S. Presidents were categories, he would actually squeal with glee. Abraham Lincoln? Forget it.
Then I went off to college and our Jeopardy! matches came to a sudden halt. Even during those first few years when I was home during the summers, we never resumed our long-standing competition. More years passed, I moved to California, and that was that.
Until last month. When I moved in with my dad, his Jeopardy! fixation returned with a vengeance. Earlier in the summer, I would try to schedule my daily visits to coincide with the 2:30 p.m. airtime, but my stupid job would sometimes get in the way. Now that I work 20 feet away from my dad, he refuses to accept, “I have a deadline” as an excuse. If I don’t respond to his first warning yell, I will promptly hear a second “Anna! Jeopardy!” that repeats in 15-second intervals until I shut down my computer and head for the living room.
My dad has become much more opinionated about the categories. He usually hates them. Even I have to admit that the folks over at Jeopardy! have tried a little too hard to spice things up. They once named all the categories after Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.” Granted, it was for the Teen Tournament, but needless to say, my dad was none too pleased.
Apparently everything about the Teen Tournament bothered my dad. To protect the innocent, I won’t name any names, but upon telling Alex that he wanted to be President of the United States one day, my dad said of one contestant, “I bet he’s not liked much at school.”
Aside from his colorful commentary, my dad hasn’t been very vocal in actually attempting to give the questions. Among its many lame side effects, cancer apparently makes you tired all the time. Then my dad’s doctor prescribed him steroids to help with the inflammation in his lungs. The good news is that his new prescription has helped tremendously with his O2 levels. We haven’t had to bump up his intake in two weeks. The bad news is that my dad has completely annihilated me during the last few Jeopardy! airings as well. Who knew that those little pills would turn him into a Jeopardy! savant. He’s even taken to saying “I got it!” or “I got it before you!” or some variation thereof after every. single. question. he gets right.
I should be annoyed… I’m not.
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