What’s the matter? Can’t you take a joke? If not, then it’s a good thing you didn’t grow up in my house. You’d have never made it. But then, what can you expect from a family whose last name is Jolly?
The worst – or I guess I should say the best – was my dad. Nobody was more mischievous than he was. When he was only eight years old, bored with sitting through yet another long-winded sermon one Sunday night, he looked out the window and then whispered to his brother sitting in the pew next to him, "Say, I just saw John Dillinger outside!” Within minutes the whole congregation was buzzing with fear and excitement that the FBI’s most wanted fugitive was staking out the First Baptist Church of Eula, Texas! It was only after several brave deacons, including my grandfather, ventured out and made sure the coast was clear, that Daddy finally confessed he’d made the whole thing up.
Childhood tomfoolery? Maybe, but he never grew out of it. My very first real car date arrived to pick me up for a dance in the tenth grade only to be met at the door by my father dressed in a bowler hat with a corncob pipe in his teeth, carrying a sign that read, "Marryin’ Sam: Weddin’s – 15 cents.” Needless to say I never had a second date with that poor guy.
Some "jokesters” love to stage elaborate pranks, but that wasn’t really Daddy’s style. He was, as I said earlier, just mischievous. If our beagle, Fleagle, was asleep on the floor, Daddy would gently lay an ice cube on the opening of his ear where the cold water would slowly trickle into his ear as it melted. And of course he never passed an opportunity to play tricks on his three gullible daughters, like the time he popped the eye of a whole grilled trout into his mouth (or so we thought) and declared it tasted like a raisin! Or how he convinced us that the best way to test a battery was by licking it!
When my husband, Marc joined the family, Daddy was delighted to discover that this new son-in-law could dish it out as well as take it, and nothing sums up their shared humor better than the running gag of the Gotcha Last Bow. It all started on one of our visits to Midland. We were going through stuff in my parents' garage storage closet when Daddy ran across a bow (minus its arrows) that had been there since my days at Camp Idlewilde in the fifth grade. With great ceremony he declared it my "inheritance" and insisted I take it home. But just before leaving Marc secretly stashed it in the tool box of Daddy's pickup truck instead. Gotcha last.
Three months later Mom and Dad came to see us in Dallas, and after they left, Marc found the bow between the sheets in our bed. Gotcha last. From then on, every time one of them visited the other, the bow exchanged hands, and neither of them ever mentioned a word about it. It’s hard to say which was more fun; plotting and scheming for the least-likely-to-be-found spot to conceal it in the host’s home, or discovering where the "visitor” had hidden it before he had a chance to drive away, and hiding it back in his car. I remember on one occasion Marc was feeling particularly smug about leaving the bow in their upright freezer – that is until we stopped for gas about two hours after leaving Midland. When he lifted the hood of the car, there was the bow, wedged around the engine block! Drat! Gotcha last.
Three years after the contest began, my father became seriously ill. When he died a few months later, for a brief moment Marc was really tempted to put that bow in his coffin as the ultimate "Gotcha last”, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. Game over? Not quite. In what was literally one of Daddy’s last requests, he directed my sister to have the bow mounted, framed and sent to Marc. It arrived a few weeks after his funeral. The engraved plaque on that now highly treasured memento says, "Gotcha last.”
You know, something tells me it’s still not over. One of these days Marc and Daddy are going to meet up in Heaven, and when they do, they’ll start this whole running gag up again and this time it’s going to go on and on and on… Or at least I hope it does!