My dad has always had an incredible sense of humor, one that I’ve always enjoyed. Even when I’d heard the same joke for the millionth time, I still laughed. There’s one where Mickey and Minnie are standing before a judge and the judge says “Mickey, you want a divorce because Minnie is crazy???” “Your honor, I didn’t say Minnie was crazy, I said she’s fucking Goofy!” Dad would repeat it in a high-pitched Mickey Mouse voice. I know, a bit of a racy joke, but funny as Hell nonetheless.
Dad taught me how to splice wires, change a tire and even install a commode. The Great Toilet Bowl Incident of 1984 will go down as the true lesson in making sure all the parts have been installed before trying a out the crapper. When we had moved the commode into place, Dad lifted his hand in the air and exclaimed, “and now the ceremonial first flush!” Water shot out from every direction. He forgot to put in the gasket. Laughing turned to serious cursing in seconds flat. After that he always used a professional plumber.
Early last month dad had to go into the hospital because his metastasized thyroid cancer had spread further into his lungs. While he was in there we made sure to have a party in his room every day. My brother Dave bought copious amounts of red wine. Dad said — “but we can’t drink from paper cups.” So Dave and I drove around town until we found a 5 & 10 store which sold wine glasses. Those glasses were $1.79 each and are better than crystal! Dave set up a beautiful bar with the wine chilling in pink plastic bed pans by the window. My sister Caroline cut hot pink azaleas from our yard for a vase in his room and friends and relatives came by the dozens to see dad.
One afternoon two security guards and an administrator came into the room to tell us that liquor is not allowed in the hospital. Dave hid two wine bottles in a cabinet as I was escorted out with two bottles by a security guard that could barely grow facial hair, least of all drink. I placed one bottle in the car and then put the other at the bottom of my bucket purse and walked back inside.
From then on the room became a speakeasy as we kept the door closed during Happy Hour. When an unfamiliar worker entered the room, dad asked “did she rat us out?” Caroline bought a bottle of Welch’s grape juice and we emptied a bit of it into the sink. “Get the prop,” dad would say so his ‘grape juice’ looked legit. That bottle sat on dads food tray when we were drinking and never seemed to empty out.
Dad loved his Cheerios and had two bowls full at breakfast. He poured orange juice over it because he didn’t like milk. One morning a nurse who looked horrified while he was making his breakfast concoction asked “what are you doing?!” Dad looked at her and shot back with “is there a Federal Cereal Law that says I can’t put orange juice on my Cheerios?”
At 11:30 one morning dad turned to me and asked if any wine was open. Of course we started drinking then. “Dave knows how to pick wine!” dad said over and over again. Dave had to fly back home in part to dry out his liver, but we continued the party. At some point dad forwent his lunch and dinner and just drank wine and ate his favorite dark chocolate.
Everyone was wonderful that came by to visit and call him. But there was one guy who meant well, but missed the mark completely. One day some flowers arrived and I quickly edited the card as I read it aloud. Later, I read it to my mom — “Dear Phil, It was great seeing you recently. Please say hi to Steve, Cousin Joe and Bob for me until we meet again.” Those three people are dead! It wasn’t like dad was going to visit them in Boca Raton! Dad would have been dumbfounded and laughed if he wasn’t dying, which is why I couldn’t read it to him.
He was moved to hospice after a week in the hospital. The nurse came out of the room and said they had to put in a catheter which was an extremely painful procedure for him. As I walked back in dad looked at me and said “I NEVER GAVE UP THE INVASION PLANS!” And he never gave up his sense of humor. Later that day he went to sleep and never regained consciousness. He died peacefully the next day.
I can only hope that I leave this world in the same manner as my dad. He had family and friends visiting and he told us how much he loved us all and that he was so proud of his family. “I’m so lucky. We really have a great family. Is it bad to brag about that?” he asked.
You can make the best and the worst from everything in life, even death. We chose to make dads exit as fun and happy for him as possible. Even when planning his funeral, mom was given a book of readings to choose from in the old and new Testaments. She looked up at one point and said, “Jesus, these are such downers…I mean there’s a bunch of readings in here about the devil!”
Dad had said he wanted a celebration not something depressing. In the end mom found two uplifting psalms and some great music. He was given a beautiful sendoff with family and friends coming from near and far. He had said that he would be there in spirit, and I know he was.
Oh, he definitely was. As my friend Carolyn was laying a rose on his casket at the cemetery, her heel got caught in between the pathway bricks. She tried to lift her shoe, only to have her foot come out of it completely. Carolyn was mortified as the funeral director came over to place the shoe back on, Cinderella-style. Dave winked at her and said, dad did that and is laughing right now.
I know he still is.