Saturday, May 21, 2016

If He Had Known Then What He Knew Now ...

"Abe Lincoln had a brighter future when he picked up his tickets at the box office."

Frasier (Kelsey Grammer)

In the episode that concluded the third season of Frasier on this night in 1996, "You Can Go Home Again," Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) tried to do the thing that, I suppose, most people try to do at some time — and in some way. Go home.

I guess it is almost always expressed in a figurative sense — except for those people who are truly saying that they are going home, back to the place where they grew up, perhaps because their parents still live there. That's how it was for my mother. Her parents lived in the same house where she grew up until the ends of their days, and my parents moved into that house and lived there until my mother died. "Going home" was almost certainly more than a figurative expression for her.

But it is largely figurative for most of us, I guess.

Frasier's wasn't quite as figurative. He was marking three years on the air, and he and Roz (Peri Gilpin) exchanged gifts to mark the occasion. Roz's gift to Frasier was a cassette tape of his first radio show.

Frasier intended to listen to it when he got home, but when he did get home, he found Daphne (Jane Leeves) on the phone with her mother in England, making excuses why she couldn't come home during her upcoming vacation. Daphne's position was that she only had one vacation a year, and she wanted to go somewhere fun like Acapulco. Going home, she told Frasier, was boring. So she wanted her mother to believe that she was the victim of her employer's tyranny.

Frasier played along, making comments that were just loud enough for Daphne's mother to hear.

When the conversation was over, Daphne asked Frasier, "Why is it so easy to love our families yet so hard to like them?"

"Well, Daphne," Frasier replied, "that is one of those questions that makes life so rich, and psychiatrists richer."

After that conversation, Frasier settled in to listen to the tape — and began remembering that first show and how Roz became his producer.

Things didn't get off to a great start, and hearing that first show almost certainly gave Frasier that feeling of if I knew then what I know now. That is certainly a big part of the desire to go home, isn't it? To change an event armed with knowledge you didn't have at the time?

We all have decisions like that in our pasts, don't we? And it is because of those experiences that we understand things we didn't understand at the time. Some things you just have to learn the hard way.

Take, for example, Frasier't first visit with his father (John Mahoney) since returning to Seattle. He was inclined to keep putting it off, but Niles (David Hyde Pierce) talked him into going with him. Frasier said his father was "Seattle's reigning sourpuss," and he was too emotionally vulnerable for that. Niles insisted that Martin was a changed man since being shot.

Actually, he wasn't a changed man.

But Niles' ploy got Frasier there, and they sat down for an uncomfortable conversation, the kind with which most people probably can relate.

After listening to the tape, Frasier agreed to go out for a celebratory dinner with his father and brother, but, before they left, he sat down to talk with Daphne about her dilemma.

"I've decided to give you an extra week off," Frasier told her. That way she could visit her family in Manchester and go to Acapulco.

"You must really think I should go home," she said.

"I've just realized that being part of a family is really worth the effort," he told her. "And very often the effort means you will need a week in Acapulco so ..."

Another valuable life lesson from Frasier.