I wasn’t always great about calling my father regularly. I can’t change it but I wish I would have called more often. Sometimes weeks would slip by and then he’d call me. He knew I was unintentionally remiss about calling so he’d start the conversation with a joke or tell me the recent mischief he had gotten into.
On one occasion I called him, he answered the phone laughing. I thought he was laughing because I finally called. Oh no. He had been into mischief.
“What did you do, Pop?”
He told me he had just come back from getting new hearing aids. I asked why he needed new ones. He started laughing again and said they got wet.
“Did you go swimming with them?”
“That’s what the doctor asked me, too,” my father laughed.
By now, I was laughing because I heard him laughing. My father told me he had had a nice evening and probably too much to drink so he accidentally put his hearing aids into his denture solution and his dentures in his hearing aid container. My father was always shrewd with his money and he wasn’t about to pay for another pair of hearing aids. He convinced the doctor something was wrong with the hearing aids and he truly couldn’t figure out why. Neither could the doctor. My father got his hearing aids replaced free of charge. His dentures were fine; they were dry.
I told my aunt (my father’s younger sister) about the phone call and she told me about a phone conversation she had with my father. My aunt was reading a book and couldn’t remember how to say “chastity belt” in German. She called my father on a whim, sometimes to ask how to translate words. She was serious when she asked my father about the chastity belt.
“How do I know? All I know is I have the universal key.”
My aunt and I both laughed. My father was always witty and quick with a joke. That’s the only response my father would have given to my aunt’s question.
I don’t remember exactly when but my father set me up brilliantly for not calling him. He even had my aunt in on it. He left me a message and said he had changed his number. He added some semi-guilt (I thought) that I should call that number if I wanted to speak with him. I used to memorize phone numbers but I was already used to just dialing contacts. The number seemed a little unusual so I dialed it.
“Happy Meadows Funeral Home.”*
In a flash, I could see and hear my father laughing, I felt sick to my stomach at the thought of it being real, and apologized profusely to the funeral home for misdialing.
I immediately called my father. Once again, he picked up the phone laughing.
“Oh my God, Pop! Why would you do that?”
He couldn’t stop laughing. And then I started laughing. In between the laughter my father said, “Well, call me a little more before you do have to dial that number.” He was still laughing. My father was comfortable with his mortality, but I wasn’t. My father was supposed to be immortal. I was always supposed to be able to call him.
I’m glad my father played that joke on me. I called him more often especially in the last few years of his life. I made it my routine. It wasn’t difficult to call him and he usually cut me short anyway because he was always busy doing some fun thing. I also learned from that prank. If my children don’t call me as often as I would like, I may just play the same prank on them. Pass on some family traditions.
“Who does that” is a question I state so often about my father’s mischief. I miss his mischief. I miss his jokes and pranks. I miss him. I enjoy the memories. It makes me smile every time albeit sometimes through a tear.
My healing journey continues. Join me. We can make some prank phone calls to our children.
(Henry Alfred Rudolph. Born April 2, 1930. Died March 2, 2015.)
(*The name of the funeral home is changed.)