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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Unsettled Chapter 40: "Now That I Can Laugh At!"

Once the walls were framed in, we added the attic floor and then the roof rafters. This phase of work moved much faster because we were not framing in doors, closets, and windows. (On the main floor there are fourteen door frames and about as many windows, but on the top floor there are only two windows and one door.) We even had time for some clowning as you can see by this picture Paul took of me just hanging around.

Once the rafters were done we put the roof planks in place, lapped the tar paper and began shingling.

I graduated from high school in June of 1974. We were still living in Roseville, but Mom brought my cap and gown out when she brought lunch and we took this picture. Notice the work boots. Nice. Real class.

Jimmy had a playmate named Mikey who lived across the street in Roseville. A couple weeks after that cap-and-gown snapshot, when we were shingling the roof, Mom brought Jim and Mikey out to the property to play trucks in the sand pile at the east end of the house. It was in that sand pile that the Tonka jeep from my own childhood was lost and ruined. We found it about ten years later when we were excavating for the garage. It was a block of rust with rubber wheels. By then I was married and Jim was a teenager.

"There's my old jeep," I said amazed."I wondered where this thing went after we moved out here."

"Oops!" Jim said with a smile. "I musta forgot to bring that in one day."

We both laughed.

[Sorry about skipping ahead in time like that. I know it happens often in these chapters, and I hope it isn't like looking at the back of cross-stitch picture, where the threads jump all over connecting things that, in the finished picture, to those who don't know what's behind it, share only a common color.]

Speaking of laughing... let's rewind back to 1974 again, the time of these pictures.

On one such occasion, when Jimmy and Mikey were playing together, they began attempting to tell me a series of jokes they'd heard but obviously didn't really understand. As an experiment in human psychology, I decided to laugh at each of Jimmy’s jokes and act like Mikey’s weren’t funny in the least.

Mikey began with “Why did the elephant have a suitcase?”

I answered: “I don’t know, Mikey. Why did the elephant have a suitcase?”

“Because he was going on a trip.”

I just looked at him without smiling. “Mikey, that’s isn’t funny at all. You didn’t tell it right. You’re supposed to say why did the elephant have a trunk... not a suitcase. You try it Jimmy."

So then Jimmy said “Why did the elephant have a trunk?”

And I said, “I don’t know Jimmy, Why did the elephant have a trunk?”

"Because he had a sore throat."

“Now that I can laugh at! He He He He! That is really funny, Jimmy. He He He He. He has a trunk because he has a sore throat.”

Mikey interrupted, “But he's supposed to have a trunk because he’s going on a trip. You know...a trunk, like a suitcase...but he has a trunk.”

“What’s funny about that? That’s not funny at all, Mikey. But the sore throat—now that I can laugh at! He He He He”

“I meant to say giraffe,” Jimmy said. “The giraffe had a sore throat.”

"Oh, my! That’s even funnier. Giraffe’s have such long necks. Good one, Jimmy!” I said with false flattery.

“But..." Mikey added. “Elephants do have trunks. You know...their nose.”

“Yes, but, Mikey, they can’t pack things for a trip in that kind of a trunk, can they? How much underwear can you put in an elephant's trunk?

"I don't know, Tom," he replied on cue, "How much underwear can you put in an elephant's trunk?"

"I'm not telling a joke, Mikey. This is serious. The answer is: Not very much. It's dangerous. He could suffocate. See what I mean? So that’s what makes it not funny. Tell me another joke, Jim.”

Jim had no idea where to take all this. He just strung elements from the conversation together and threw it out there in the breeze.

“Why did the giraffe go to the doctor?”

“I don’t know, Jim. Why did the giraffe go to the doctor?”

“Because the doctor had a suitcase and a trunk and a sore throat!”

“Now that I can laugh at! He He He He! That is really funny, Jimmy. He He He He. The doc had a suitcase and a trunk and a sore throat. All three! What could be funnier than that?”

Mikey just stood there with a puzzled look on his face. The entire exchange made no sense. Both six-year-olds had blown their first joke, and Jim’s follow-ups were utter nonsense and unfunny. Yet, I split a gut with twisted glee to see how the two boys would interpret irrational responses to their feeble jokes. At that age, it seems, that the reward of getting a laugh is more important than understanding the essence of humor. But let’s be honest. What I was doing wasn’t really an experiment. It was just mean. I had poor Mikey so confused about telling jokes that I later feared I had completely ruined his sense of humor altogether.

That's Jimmy and Mikey sitting in the wall to what would someday be my parents’ master bedroom. (Notice one of Jimmy's cubes of bricks in the foreground.)

The good news is I visited with Mikey again sixteen years later at my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary. (Not far from the spot that picture was taken.) He was an officer in the Air Force. Jim was finishing college. The three of us talked for a while, and I asked if they remembered that day they told me jokes. They did, and we had a genuinely good laugh about it.

Moral? There’s never an excuse for mean-spirited pranks that mess with the mind of children, but it’s good to know that kids survive most of what life throws at them.


Blogger the walking man said...

Why did the walking man never wear a cap and gown?

He was never around when required.

13/12/09 5:47 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

There are many forms of graduation. In looking back on it, the schooling I was getting while working with Dad was every bit as important as a diploma. Likewise, you have earned your degrees in life and have been a valued resource to many. (Like the time you helped explain why one gear still worked when my Mom ruined the transmission by throwing it in reverse at 55MPH on 23 Mile Rd.)

13/12/09 7:32 AM  

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