April Fool’s Day, for me, is more like a continuation of my constant state of being rather than an atypical day. Good-natured pranks and joking have always been fundamental elements of my daily social life. I can trace this back to my grandfather, who was born on April Fool’s Day in 1919. He entered the world on a day of joking and lived as a man of laughing. I’ve tried to use that as a model in my own life.
My grandfather’s humor was subtle but ubiquitous. Toward the end of his life, when he was thin and slowed by strokes, his mind never quit churning out humor. He was never any bigger than 5’5” if I recall correctly, but as he got older he was closer to 5’2” – a bald, Japanese comedian, hunched over and grinning at every joke his hearing aids allowed him to hear. His name was Mikiri, but everyone called him Mickey, like the mouse.
I flew back from Argentina in September of 2006 to attend my grandpa’s funeral. When I gave my eulogy I recalled the last time I spoke to him. I was in my prison-like dormitory room in Buenos Aires talking to family members on the phone when they put grandpa on the horn. For as long as I can remember, he couldn’t hear anything over the phone and had mastered the timing of intermittently saying “yeah” or “okay” to give the impression of reciprocal conversation. But he caught me off guard when he turned the tables on me.
“What are you doing?” he asked me.
I hadn’t planned on him breaking the pattern of yeahs and okays.
“Um, I don’t know, nothing I guess,” I said.
“Maybe you should study.”
“Yeah, I think so,” I said.
It was a valid recommendation, no doubt, but clearly a gentle stab at my apparent lack of productivity. At the point of our last conversation, he was alternating between bed-ridden and mostly inactive, but his sense of humor was still there. It was always there. After all, he was born on April Fool’s Day.
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