My father died 15 years ago today. The next time I mention him will probably be in January, on his 100th birthday (for those doing the math, he was 51 when I was born).
My father loved a good joke. Unfortunately, he wasn't naturally funny and he really couldn't tell a joke and most of the jokes he told I'd already heard, so I don't think he ever made me laugh. That's not unusual - I'm a tough audience. Comedians are generally very hard to make laugh (they usually smile and nod their heads and say, "That's pretty good.") and I'm no exception. There are people who think I'm generally a morose guy, but I usually laugh - hard - once a day, usually at things whose humor is hard to explain. "Family Guy" is a show that frequently makes me laugh, but it's the stuff no one else thinks is funny that gets me; some of that show has got to be written specifically for comics.
Shelly is not usually funny, but she made me laugh a few weeks ago telling an old Emo Phillips joke: "When I was a kid, I prayed for a bicycle and I was upset that I didn't get one. Then I learned that God doesn't work that way. So I stole a bicycle and prayed for forgiveness, because that's how God works." She told it during the invocation of a church service! There was this moment of shocked silence as people were trying to decide if it was okay to laugh. That nearly killed me. It also explains why that's the church I attend. I've delivered sermons there; people would laugh when I was trying to be serious. That's also why I didn't deliver an eulogy at my father's funeral - people laugh no matter what I say, it seems.
Except... some people don't find me funny at all. I dated a woman for a year and never made her laugh (later, her brother explained that with all the psychotropic drugs she was taking, her affect was completely flattened... and yes, I sure know how to pick 'em). There's another woman I made laugh exactly twice in 5 years, though she had a great sense of humor.
Dad did not think I was funny. At all. I made him laugh exactly once and that's what all this introductory stuff was leading to. I was a precocious reader and at 10, I was reading Tolstoy's "Sevastopol Stories." There was an exciting story I thought my father would like, as it involved cossacks; Dad had grown up on a cavalry base back when that still meant horses (Grandpa went up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt). So, I was describing the climactic scene, as the cossacks came over the hill, brandishing their scimitars.
Only... I said, "burnishing their samovars." Dad laughed at the mistake and at his smart-ass kid who was trying to use words too big for him. Then the image hit him. I could just see him picturing soldiers going, "Ooh, cossacks! I'm soooo scared, with them shining up their teapots!"
He laughed until he wept. He couldn't catch his breath. He'd stop laughing for a while, then break up into giggles all over again.
I tried for 20 years to make him laugh like that again. Miss ya, dad. Miss that big booming laugh.
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