So I just went out to help my Dad out of the car. He appeared to be talking on his phone, but when I got closer, I realized he was actually holding a package of tissues up to his mouth like a walkie-talkie and talking to it. I heard phrases like “Put a sock in it lady!” and “On a scale of 1-to10 I hate Humana!”
It turns out a recording from his old health insurance was robo-calling him on his speaker phone.
“Dad! You’re yelling at a recording!” I said. He ignored me. “Dad, why are you talking to a tissue?”
He stuck out his tongue and stuck a tissue to it, then peered at me from the side of his eyes, reminding me a lot of the way Henry looks at me as he runs out of the kitchen after sneaking a mouth full of chocolate before dinner. I turned his phone off and gently helped him out of the car.
My favorite thing about my Dad is how he can turn even the darkest situation into laughter and light, like Rumpelstiltskin spinning straw into gold, or like Abbott and Costello can transform a hospital room. When my Dad was in the hospital, I found Abbott and Costello “Who’s On First” on my phone and played it to distract him from his misery. This old radio show never ceases to delight my parents who laugh at the word play the entire way through. They even got Henry listening and laughing. We came home and my parents had an Abbott and Costello movie marathon with Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, The Invisible Man, Frankenstein, and all the rest.
A week ago, we listened to Abbott and Costello as we drove up the 128 to Addison Gilbert Hospital to see the oncologist. The drive is beautiful with quaint houses, stunning salt marshes, colorful rowboats, and open ocean on both sides. I was pointing out the gorgeous views on the way to my Dad, who didn’t seem particularly interested in the scenery. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a white downy feather waving from my purse. Feathers, glitter, and jewels seem to follow me wherever I go, part of being a belly dancer/preschool teacher I suppose. I handed it to my Dad, and he was so excited he took off his Navy hat and stuck the feather in the submarine pin on the side of his hat. He put the hat back on his head and wore it in to see the Dr.
We received lot’s of bad news, but neither of my parents seemed to take it in, and my Dad sat there with the feather in his cap, cracking absurd jokes and telling wild nonsensical stories, making everyone laugh while the Dr. told us about the severity of his cancer.
As we checked out, my Mom was evidently perturbed by the feather and told my father to take it out of his hat. I was talking to the nurse and my mom tapped my shoulder and said, “Look at him.” I turned around and my Dad had stuck the feather under his nose and was looking around like nothing unusual was going on.
As we left, I was pushing the wheelchair behind him for him to sit in. He was hobbling around a pole to find me, and we were going in circles trying to find each other, laughing hysterically, just like an Abbott and Costello bit.
And I can’t help but think our lives have become a lot like an Abbott and Costello movie: lot’s of surprises, a little bit scary, and always hilarious.