A happy moment during the worst of times
The Last Laugh
Charles C. Francis
Dad was getting close to the end when my two brothers and I arrived at his home for the weekend. In spite of his illness, he still had his sense of humor. He was lying there picking imaginary lottery numbers off the ceiling, when I arrived. Mom said he did it almost every day and that she wrote them down and played them when she could. Apparently everyone, including Dad, was optimistic that one of the numbers would eventually win. It never happened, but he had a good time doing it. However, Dad’s luck was running out, and this would likely be the last time that my brothers and I would be there together before he died.
Dad was in a hospital bed in the small living room. Conditions were not good, and the very warm room smelled of illness and hopelessness. He was in a pair of undershorts and an athletic shirt, and one of my brothers said, “Dad. Things are getting a bit stinky in here. Do you need to go to the bathroom?” Dad, who rarely spoke to anyone now, shook his head yes.
The three of us got him up, got under his sweaty arms and shoulders, shuffled with him into the bathroom and placed him in front of the commode. At that moment it occurred to me that this would be the first time in my forty-five year life that I would see him naked. It was kind of a chilling thought, because he was incredibly modest and would be terribly embarrassed that he had to stand before his sons nude. He started to shake a little, but before it became too humiliating for him, my brother Matt pulled down his shorts.
We stood there dumbfounded for a minute, and then Matt said, “Geez Dad. You could have shared a little.” We howled, and Dad laughed and laughed like a little boy, tears streaming down his cheeks. We made a little football huddle around him and let out a bunch of hoots, hurrahs, and hollers. He was so proud of himself, and of the fact that his manhood had been fully validated in front of his sons.
Dad died a week later, happy to know that this story would be told over and over again.