Loose Fit Genes
|Call me "Crazy."
Would that I could have said "Ishmael," but for more years than I care to remember this has been a family mantra. Recently I phoned my younger sister, who has four beautiful children. Emma, the eight-year-old with blond hair and robin's-egg blue eyes, answered. In the background was the usual breakfast-time cacophony: clacking dishes, pinging silverware, shouts of "Ian's playing with the butter again!" I could barely say "Hi" before the phone banged in my ear, Emma's voice drifting away with, "Mom! It's 'Crazy.'" My niece, never one to say "uncle," was not describing the unfolding kitchen farrago, whatever that means.
Blame it on the weather, blame it on Dave Barry, blame it on genetics gone haywire, but puns are the grist that punch my mill ticket. One Christmas my mother gave me my very own copy of Get Thee to A Punnery. I'm still trying to figure out the message in that, not an easy task when you exist on a diet of re-fried brains. If memory serves that was the year I led my three brothers in a rousing rendition of "Walking Around in Women's Underwear," an irrelevant version of "Walking in A Winter Wonderland." Oxymorons are to me what bulgar wheat is to low density liproproteins: an inexpensive way to ensure your colon doesn't become a semi-colon.
I've wracked my brainľa cue to insert a pool table metaphor, but I won't go thereľand tried to trace the provenance of this condition. Since I don't know what "provenance" means, you can understand why I've had little luck. By the way, I've never met a phor I didn't like.
When we were kids one of my father's favorite veiled threats was, "I'll knock you into the middle of next week." I would chew on this, along with a P B & J sandwich, and, while watching with fascination as grape jelly soaked through the Merita bread, try to imagine what things might be like seven days hence. Perhaps that's when this all got started; my psyche, like an unneeded coal car, ended up on a sidetrack, only a few feet from derailment. As comedic props though let's face it: puns are a train wreck.
My father built a successful insurance agency and was always quick with his dry-witted repartee. Two years ago we took Pop to a gerontologist, whom I've come to learn, dispense more than Geritol. During the exam, which did not involve a single surgical glove, gel or a "turn your head and cough," it became apparent why Pop had seemed to be retreating into another world, one populated with more blanks than a fresh insurance application.
"What," the good doctor asked my father from a laundry list of questions, "did you have for lunch today?"
Pop, ever with a mischievous gleam in his eye, didn't miss a beat and replied, "The usual." My father, I should add, was very clear on events that took place some eighty years ago. Since then we've all watched, with dread and wonder, as the disease that sounds eerily like the condition it describes, Old Timer's has secured Pop's cerebral matter within its ever-tightening tentacles.
Despite this, despite the pervasive cloud that now obscures the mind of a man once prone to saying things like, "High tide and how are ya," there still remains a spark. It may only be a flicker, but it's surely the source of my earning a nickname at once a responsibility and a reason for my siblings to keep me away from open windows. As evidence I cite Pop's recent observation, in the midst of my giving him a touch up with the Remington electric shaver, about one of Mom's rare ventures out for a few hours' worth of shopping and, yes, freedom: "She's probably on a date with her boy friend."