My dad owned and operated a gas station-grocery store from the time he returned from the Army to the day he died. Running the business required long hours, which were often spent outdoors pumping gas and cleaning windshields in all kinds of weather, but he never complained. Instead, he had fun at work and actually, everywhere he went. He was a jokester who liked to laugh, but more importantly, to make other people laugh, including his customers, kids, and grandkids.
Let’s go back in time. My dad had loyal customers who came by for gas, a newspaper, or a can of snuff, but most often, to share in his laughter. The laughter started well before they pulled up to the pump or walked into the store due to his messages on the large yellow sign at the edge of the station parking lot. My dad made church signs before there were church signs, only his were about everyday events instead of church. One day, the sign read, ‘Free self-serve haircuts. Inquire within.’ Now, if that isn’t masterful comedy, I don’t know what is. Who doesn’t want to save a buck here or there on something they need and that could be done while waiting to get a tiger in their tank? Now giving away free haircuts at a gas station didn’t exactly pull them in, but the idea of a self-serve haircut did put a smile on the faces of many people who drove by that day and those who ventured into the store, and that’s what brought him joy.
His laughter was not limited to work. He did a lot of jokestering at home too and often to the point of getting me in trouble for ‘carrying on’ at the dinner table, something my mother did not like. Sometimes, he would get me going and I just couldn’t stop so on those evenings, I was sent to time out after dinner. Who punishes a kid for laughing? That’s absurd, especially when the whole family was laughing because the milky white plates on which our piping hot tuna noodle casserole was served began to make loud popping noises as, one at a time, they crack down the middle. Sure, everyone else laughed and moved on, but I couldn’t. And just as I would start to simmer down, he’d give a look out of the corner of his eye and I’d start laughing all over again.
He also taught his grandchildren about laughter through his funny sayings. When they told him something they thought was interesting, he would say, “I’ll be an unkies moncle.” If anyone ever used the transition, ‘on the other hand’, he would chime in with, “he had 4 fingers and a thumb.” Trying to tell him a story about one of their friends always resulted in, “Oh, you mean that big, tall, skinny, short fat kid?” And one of his all-time favorites was, “Is the water wet?” which he would ask his grandkids as they swam in the pool in his backyard.
Yeah, I grew up with a lot of laughter and it seems I’m a product of that environment, although it took me some time to lighten up and laugh at everyday life like my dad did. I enjoy making people laugh and, like my dad, have some loyal customers who stop by every Tuesday and Friday to share in the laughter. I am very grateful for each of them and the fact that they follow me and share the laughter, even when I’m not that funny. I think my dad would be proud that his legacy of laughter lives on. Fappy Hather’s Day!