Without a doubt my favorite thing about my father was his ability to laugh at himself, particularly during life’s humiliating moments. His humor was never self-deprecating or diversionary; his laughter never awkward.
Case in point: one year my father and step-mother hosted a very elegant Christmas morning brunch for our family and a few close friends. Daddy and Sara had been married only a few years, still in the honeymoon of entertaining guests in their home together. “Your daddy’s so excited,” Sara said, “he’s made these wonderful drinks we had in New Orleans last month. They’re called Belinis – they’re peach mimosas!” My sister and I stole sideways glances. Daddy was always bringing home some “new creation” (usually three or four years late), so proud of himself for being contemporary.
Silver trays of Tiffany flutes were passed around, and we lifted our glasses to toast the morning. My step-sister was the first to taste and then look my way. “Kenneth, what an interesting recipe you found,” she said. Daddy smiled broadly and finally took a sip, which he promptly spit out. “Dammit to Hell!” he exclaimed (it was his favorite expression). He rummaged through the liquor cabinet, only to discover that he’d used peppermint, not peach, liqueur. Then he laughed a deep belly laugh, dumped his glass in the sink and said, with warm twinkling eyes, “anybody want a beer?”
If I could give my children only a single gift of spirit, this one would be it: that life’s great imperfections, failings and accidents be as dear and wonderful as its triumphs, and always accompanied by laughter.