My dad had a great sense of humor and shared it generously. The humor came in many forms: wonderful stories, jokes, looks, puns, and funny actions. He made us all laugh, even at times when we felt like crying. To him, making people laugh started out as a way to be accepted at school. This was a HUGE thing because one arm was shorter than the other, his left hand almost completely useless – an easy thing for unkind kids to use to bully and belittle him. The fact that he made everyone laugh and forget he might have had an extra challenge gained him acceptance.
He used his wonderful sense of humor to create a one-man advertising agency in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He and my mom celebrated when he finally gained enough clients that they were able to pay the bills more easily. He put my brother and me through college with his talent, finally winning a Silver Addy Award for Lifetime Achievement in Tulsa. The radio stations still play his commercials from time to time to honor his memory. (This happened the first time when my husband and I were visiting my mom and his parents, who lived on the next street. We were in Dillards Department store. All of a sudden I heard my dad’s voice! I dropped to my knees in the middle of the store. One of the clerks rushed over to help me. When I told her what was ‘wrong,’ she explained to me that the radio stations do that every year to honor my dad, since his commercials were so distinctive and funny. )
He taught me to stand back and look at situations as if I were looking at a movie. This allowed me to see the humor in many situations, allowing me to laugh, rather than get hurt or angry. I thank him often for teaching me this.
I miss him, of course, and get weepy at times, but I FEEL him looking down at me – usually when I’m trying something for the first time or sticking my neck out in some way. I can FEEL him smiling at me, urging me on. It lights me up from the inside, filling me and giving me strength.
On his last day, he scribbled on a piece of paper, “Remember me laughing.” And I DO. I cherish memories of him telling a story, laughing so hard at times – unable to go on for several seconds – being able to SEE the situation. The helpless laughter is what I remember most. I’ve forgotten a lot of the stories, but I’ll never forget his joy in telling them.
(One of his favorite stories was about going camping with his friends. If you knew them, this was already funny because neither my dad, nor any of his friends, were outdoor people. He described a laborious afternoon after they figured out where they would camp for the night. One guy decided to dig a hole in the ground because he slept on his back and wanted to be comfortable in his sleeping bag. He would dig a bit, ‘try-the-hole-for-fit’ and dig a bit more until it was perfect. The rest of the guys decided that seemed like a great idea, so they, too, dug holes for their butts. At dark, they got ready for bed. One of the guys was suddenly cursing. They turned on their flashlights to find out what the problem was. It turned out the guy was trying to brush his teeth – mistaking the “Unguentine” for toothpaste!
They got into their sleeping bags, still laughing, and suddenly the guy was cursing again. They turned on their flashlights to see him moving his sleeping bag to another spot. He angrily told them, “I sleep on my stomach!” )
I’m smiling now as I type this, easily picturing my dad trying to tell us this story, laughing his rear end off. I’m so lucky to have known and loved him.