HUMOR IS ONE OF YOUR FAMILY TRAITS AND A WAY TO DEAL WITH LIFE’S LITTLE “HICCUPS”. YOUR FATHER WAS WELL KNOWN FOR BEING A JOKESTER. WHAT WOULD YOU ATTRIBUTE HIS SENSE OF HUMOR TO?
Denise: “It was just his Irish humor.”
ALL OF HIS SIBLINGS (9 in all) HAD NICKNAMES. WHAT WAS HIS?
Denise: “They called him “Divil” (They had an Irish brogue). He was always the troublemaker in the crowd and in his family. He played practical jokes and things like that.”
SO HE DEALT WITH THINGS BY MAKING JOKES?
Denise: “All the time. Everything was funny all the time.”
HE LOST HIS HAND. DID HE HANDLE THAT IN THE SAME MANNER AS EVERYTHING ELSE OR DID IT MAKE HIM BITTER?
Denise: “I didn’t know him before that. He lost his hand when my twin brother and I were a month old. (My grandfather fell off the roof the same day.)
We had all the questions kids would have about that. The first one was asking why he didn’t have a hand and he’d tell us the whole story. Then we wanted to know where it was. We actually rode through Landsdowne one time because we wanted to see where it was. Back then, they didn’t sew limbs back on, but it didn’t stop him. He still played violin and banjo, piano.”
Carol: “My Dad lost his hand in an industrial accident. Instead of pitying himself, like most people would, he made everyone feel at ease with it. For instance he would, on occasion, say: “Gee, I’d be glad to help you, but I’m a little short-handed right now”. His sense of humor and love of music was an everyday thread that ran through his life. He even played a comedian every year in the parish shows, telling jokes and singing. He learned to drive his car with his left hand, etc. His sense of humor kept everyone at ease with his handicap.”
WHAT STORY STANDS OUT IN YOUR MIND ABOUT HIM THAT IS A PRIME EXAMPLE OF THE KIND OF JOKES HE’D PLAY?
Denise: “We would vacation up the Poconos. We’d go to the tavern at night and square dance and listen to hokey music. On the way home, in the dark, with flashlights, we’d sing “I’m tired and I wanna go home”. We’d try to sing faster as we were going up the road. As we approached the long path to the cottage, we shined the flashlight and all you saw were skunks eyes under the brush. We went in the house and my father would need to take the dog out to pee. Meanwhile, we get put to bed and five minutes later, we hear my mother screaming “Oh my god!”. We got up and he’s outside telling her he just got sprayed by a skunk. She doesn’t know what to do. He led her on for a good ten minutes before he told her he was joking. He would always annoy my mother with things [like that]. Jerk the car at every stop light. Wave to people he didn’t know.”
A GREAT SENSE OF HUMOR WASN’T SOLELY RESERVED FOR YOUR DAD, RIGHT?
Denise: “Oh yeah. Before there were fitted sheets, my mother would make the bed and short sheet it. She’d do stuff like that to him. They were always goofing off. And our family has definitely carried that on. We’d always dress up and take funny pictures. This one Halloween, my mother went around the corner to my aunts and changed into a costume. She came back home and knocked on the door and no one knew who she was. Another time, my mother sent me to the convent dressed for Halloween as an old man in long John’s, this hideous old man mask and a hat. She decided to spread brown mustard on the back as if I shit myself. The nuns were laughing their asses off.”
Carol: “They always used to say, and I don’t know where this came from, but “laughter at the dinner table is conducive to digestion”. April’s Fool Day was a big deal there; Vaseline on the door knobs, toilet seats. I hate to say this, but when my father got home from work he would always have a shot or two. For that reason he would leave a glass of stale beer on the kitchen counter for the chaser. Once, my mother switched olive juice for it. HE didn’t laugh but we all did.”
A written memory from their late brother, Eddie: “I grew up hearing a story, which involved my father and a large portion of the town of Ashley, Pa. This story was about a “sting” put upon a guy who was a bit of a philanderer specializing in other men’s wives. It was a very complicated little plot taking in a mock trial, a faked shooting, and a number of other elaborate details. My father used to tell this story, but I have forgotten much of it since I was so young at the time that I heard it.”