Periscope Depth

teach your parents well; their children’s hell will slowly go by

Twenty years ago:

I’m in the basement of the Coldheart family home in Cockeysville, MD. It’s warm and sticky outside, but the furnished basement has an insulated chill to it. I’m trekking through the Tower of Babil in Final Fantasy IV (released in the states as “Final Fantasy 2″). My party’s grinding levels so I can stand up to Dr. Lugae and his monstrous creations.

“Time to go,” my dad calls from upstairs.

Dang it, I think. All right, I can still backtrack to a save point. “I’ll be up in five minutes!”

“We’re leaving,” my dad says. “Turn the game off and get your shoes on.”

Sighing, I power the SNES off. I stomp upstairs with all the petulance a pre-adolescent can muster and follow my family outside to the car. I glare out the window as we drive off.

Someday, I think.

Last weekend:

My dad and I stand in the lobby of our hotel in Pittsburgh. I’ve got a blazer and chinos; he’s wearing a dark gray suit. We’re on our way to see my cousin Phil get married.

My dad’s become an early adopter of gadgets. He got a Kindle before I did, and he uses an iPhone while I still pack a Motorola clamshell. He pulls out his iPhone while we wait.

“Have you got into Angry Birds yet?” he asks.

I peer over his shoulder while he opens up the app. “It’s great. You catapult these birds into obstacles in order to knock out these pigs. The birds have different abilities. It’s the best 99 cents I’ve spent this year.”

“Do you just touch and drag to launch them?” I ask.

He nods. “Here, I’ll show you.” On the menu screen, he selects one of the later stages. “I already beat this one, but you can see … hmm. Hang on.”

He backs out to the menu, reloads the stage, and looks at it for a second. He goes to the menu again.

“I thought I beat this one,” he said. I watch while he checks back through his progress. “I did beat this one! I know I did. Damn it.” He frowns. “I spent hours working on this one.”

“You have to make sure it saves your progress,” I say.

“I did save it,” he says. “It’s just …”

My mom enters the lobby from the outside. “The valet’s brought the car round,” she tells my dad. “We have to go now.” My dad nods. He puts his phone away.

I look out the window as we drive east on Rt 30 toward the ceremony. It’s a lovely day out, so I’m smiling.

# # #

(Of note, Angry Birds is a really great game)