In Memory of My Father…
My Dad passed away 22 years ago today! And he was wonderful story teller who I based many stories on!
This is from a novel I wrote called Outrunning Crazy
and in memory of him I thought I’d tell a story inspired by him!
King came down with us in the evening to the river but he wouldn’t swim. His side of the family didn’t believe in getting wet. King would make a thermos of instant coffee from the A&P for him and the ladies. “Me and my harem,”
he said to Aunt Lillian. He claimed if you drank caffeine in the summer, it wouldn’t keep you awake, that the heat would counteract it the way a salad counteracts the calories of a burger. The adults had big mugs of the stuff and he and my mother would cuddle up on the lounge chair with him tucked up between Alberta’s tree trunk legs. It might’ve been called a date if they hadn’t been surrounded by a posse of kids. They smooched like they were newlyweds.
Lillian sat away from them to give them privacy. She sat closer to the water, in the open wind, perched on that blue camp chair of hers, staring out. Her brain was a snowstorm of worry but still that smile was pasted on her puss. Three adults trying to count heads; six kids swimming. Elaine went everywhere with her dog, Reg, who barked like an idiot every time one of us put our head under the water.
As an only child, Elaine would holler at her mother a hundred times a night. “Mom, look at me. Look at me. Mom, are you looking? Watch. Oh no, not that one. I didn’t do it right. Watch. Okay? Watch us. Mom, please watch me. No. Not that time.”
If we had made a racket like that, we would’ve been told to ‘go the hell home’ but Lillian just sat there and said, “My lands sake, I am watching, Elaine. I know you can swim.”
We swam until our lungs hurt and our lips were blue chattering. We’d only have to come out when it was too dark for the adults to see us. Some nights King would build a campfire, and Lillian would bring marshmallows and hot dogs –with real buns. We always had to put our wieners on bread.
King would tell us one of his big stories. My favourite was about ‘Tom the Turkey.’
It was a sad story about when my dad was a boy.
Nobody wanted him to have a turkey as a pet. They’re not bright birds and Tom was no exception. He was so dense that he thought he was a chicken, but the chickens hated him. They gave him a rough time for playing the big shot, eating their food.
One day one of the big capons, a real mean one, pecked him right out of the coop, right into the pig slough. That year Tom ended up being the Thanksgiving bird, but he didn’t die in the way you might think. He died of natural causes. One day it started to rain and when the water began hitting him on the head, he looked up and opened his mouth in amazement. “Uh duh, where’s that water coming from? Is the sky leaking?”
King delivered the punch line with his Tom the turkey voice, slow and dense. “Tom stood there, his head pointed up toward the sky in a trance, slack-jawed until he drowned. That’s how Tom, ended ……up…” Then his face caved in on top of itself, and he couldn’t get to the punch line. He’d be shaking to the bones, and we’d scream, “Daddy, finish the story, finish the story…” And then he’d say, “Ended up on the table….”
King would collapse and roll all over the ground, laughing like a moron. All us kids would jump on him and he’d tickle us.
“Tell it again Daddy, tell it again,” we’d all chant.
Alberta would say, “No, that’s enough.” To her nobody gained anything by doing something over and over again. She ate oranges once a year at Christmas when they were in season. She played Elvis records only on Elvis’s birthday, and only let Daddy tell his stories once. It was important to keep memories special.
Here is another story about King from the same book:
“I was having a really good dream when the phone rang. It was my brother Patrick. “Get to the hospital, right now,” he said. “It’s Dad,”
Half-asleep, I thought he meant my grandfather, J.D. but when I got to Furlong Hospital, I found out it was King. When I walked into the room there he was hooked up to the oxygen tank, skin was yellow. He’d woken in the middle of the night, gasping for breath.
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