I was not a fan of Billy Graham as a child. My dislike had nothing to do with him or his message. Rather, it had everything to do with the disruption his televised crusades brought to our family’s TV viewing schedule. Mom, a school teacher who wanted her kids to be active readers and not passive consumers, controlled how much television we watched at our house. However, she granted Dad control of what we watched.
Because, as his multiple sclerosis progressed, the television screen was his primary link to the outside world.
Dad was a big consumer of the nightly news, football, variety shows, and hokey sitcoms. As a former county extension agent, he especially loved the bumbling county extension agent on Green Acres. He would laugh until he cried as Hank Kimball’s meandering answers left the farmers who consulted him more confused than ever.
“Jo, get Harlan a tissue,” Mom would order when Dad’s nose began to run.
“Make that two,” Dad would gasp between chuckles, “no, three.”
As much as Dad loved Green Acres, he loved Bill Graham more. While my sister, brother, and I grumbled when Graham’s crusades preempted our favorite shows for three or four nights in a row, Dad anticipated crusade weeks with delight. Every night he rolled away from the supper table early and positioned his wheelchair in the center of the living room directly in front of the TV. We three kids, on the other hand, dragged into the living room, rolled our eyes and assumed our best martyred children poses after flopping onto the couch and easy chairs.
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