As is customary in our neighborhood, there were about 4 kids ranging in age hanging out on the sidewalk. They all started moving in my house’s direction as I unloaded my kids, backpacks, lunch boxes, my coffee mug, purse, etc., from the car. As I normally do, I threw my keys on top of my car for a moment so that I could get a better grasp on everything I was juggling in my arms.
One of the neighborhood boys, a middle schooler, sauntered over to chat and, while doing so, grabbed the keys from the top of the car. He’s a good kid; he wanted to open my front door for me since my hands were full.
Suddenly, he stopped. “Have you been to Africa?” he asked me, eyeing my keychain shaped like the continent.
I thought it was a weird question. Our neighborhood is very tight-knit, and I’ve known this boy since he was barely out of Kindergarten, when we moved in just after bringing our then-6-month-old son home from Africa.
Still, I couldn’t help it. I puffed up with pride, thinking, I’m so worldly. “I have,” I answered, beaming.
“Oh, that’s really neat,” the neighborhood boy answered smoothly, nonchalantly turning the keychain over in his hands. “Really cool, Shay. I’ll bet it was a great trip…EBOLA CARRIER.”
Then we all started laughing. Clever little shit.
My dad got in on the Ebola fun on Facebook last week with this status update:
I do not have Ebola but I did have Abowla cereal…does that count?
When my 4 siblings and I were kids, we hated Dad’s puns. He used them all the time, inevitably cracking himself up so hard that he would almost choke while the rest of us rolled our eyes and sighed. And then before we knew it, we grew older and found ourselves laughing at them, too.
I was scrolling through my Facebook feed at a Panera Bread coffee table with my husband when I came across my dad’s Abowla status update, and I tried—I really tried, you guys—not to laugh. I clapped my hand over my twitching mouth, but I realized that my shoulders were shaking, too, and tears were rolling down my red face. Trying to stop the laughter from coming was a lost cause.
“What’s so funny?” my husband asked, looking up from his newspaper.
“See—but that’s the thing,” I started, gasping with laughter. “I don’t think it is. I mean, I’m pretty sure that it’s not even funny—and yet I can’t stop laughing.”
I read it to my husband and he rolled his eyes, but I could tell that he got a kick out of it, too. He doesn’t like anyone to think that he’s actually happy, God forbid, so he has this habit of coughing and swiping the back of his hand across his mouth to literally wipe the smile off of his face. Problem is, I figured out years ago that the moments when he’s the most happy are the same as those when he’s desperately trying not to be.
Anyway, his laughter encouraged me, and I joined my sisters and brothers in adding a bunch of the other puns we’d grown up hearing all of our lives to the comments of my dad’s Facebook status update. Two of our favorites:
Yeah, I’ve met Denise…but what about Denephew?
[The priest says] Let us pray. [My dad whispers to the person sitting closest to him] Why can’t the tomatoes pray?
He’s been saying that second one at Mass every single Sunday since my older sister was born 39 years ago—and probably before that, but I wouldn’t know since I wasn’t even a fetus yet. I believe, then, that if I attended Mass with my dad one Sunday and he didn’t say it, the Mass “wouldn’t count,” as we Catholics love to say.
It’s been often imitated but never duplicated, and I have to remind my husband of this on those Sundays when we go to Mass with Dad and my husband, the joke stealer, hurriedly tries to say it before Dad gets a chance to.
That saying is sacred, dammit—almost as sacred as the Sacraments—and when Dad is present, he’s the one who gets to say it. When he’s not there, we keep a running tally that we double check just before Mass and take turns.
Anyway, as my sisters and brothers and I were cracking each other up all over Dad’s Facebook page, I got to thinking.
Yes, it took me 37 years to laugh at my dad’s jokes, but that’s not a bad turnaround for a joke, right…