“Sometimes I lie awake at night, and ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong?’
Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.’”
~ Charles M. Schulz

My sister and I were watching TV as teens. The show was terribly important and had built to a dramatic peak when my Dad walked in – limping badly. He hobbled across the room and stopped in front of the TV, blocking our view while looking worriedly at his foot.

We knew he was up to something because he never acknowledged our howls of protest, or even our presence. He continued as if we weren’t there.

He propped one hand on the TV where our show was reaching a fevered pitch, reached down with the other hand and took off his shoe. As we proclaimed our teenage indignity, he looked confused then reached into his shoe and pulled out – wait for it – a railroad spike.

“Daddy!” we shouted in drawn-out unison before we collapsed in laughter.

He never cracked a smile. With the concentration of a Broadway actor, he ignored our proclamations of disbelief and slowly walked out of the room, staring in amazement at the huge spike as if mystified as to how it got there.

He never said a word about it, either then or later, but it is unforgettably imprinted in my memory. Who knows what the TV show was? No one remembers. It’s the lesson that will never be forgotten.

Don’t take yourself too seriously – we don’t.

That silly moment was just one of hundreds. Very often the jokes weren’t even that funny. But there were a lot of them.

Dad taught me not to worry about looking bad. To take the chance on a joke bombing. You’ll survive it was the lesson. Have courage to try and laugh at the failures.

There’s value in the attempt.

Sooner or later you say just the right thing at just the right moment and the room comes unglued. Nothing better. For a moment all of life’s tragedies disappear.

You don’t have to become a professional comedian. Although I later learned that many of Dad’s jokes were originally written by Bob Hope or Jack Benny. We were too young to know. Rubes, ripe for the picking. We thought he was a genius.

Still do.

You don’t even have to be the comic. Just be aware. Ready to play. The moment will find you.

Because, if you pay attention, life is funny.

Laugh. Especially if the joke is sometimes you.


Photo by Ciaran McGuiggan via Flickr