My dad is an hour late when he shows up at my house.
"I can't believe the traffic!" he says, as he takes off his coat. "There I was, stuck behind a huge mattahue. What a nerve-wracking experience."
He follows me into the kitchen and accepts a ginger ale.
"I'm sorry the drive over was so hard," I say. "By the way, what's a 'mattahue'?"
"I don't know. What's a-matta you?"
If restaurants were divided into joking or nonjoking sections, I know where my father would sit.
As a child, I did not appreciate his persistent sense of humor. He lay in wait for me every morning. Wearing a respectable gray suit and reading the newspaper, he looked like an ordinary adult.
I knew better.
"Want a bagel?" he asked once, as I dragged in.
I analyzed the question, wary that a joke lurked in it. "OK," I answered. I'd learned that one-word replies made me less vulnerable to punnery. My father calmly sliced, toasted, and buttered a bagel for me. I took a bite and relaxed.
"Interesting article about the space program," he said.
I nodded and kept chewing.
"Johns Hopkins is doing a study on the nutritional impact of space. Do you know what those fellows eat?"
"Some sort of capsule or algae," I said.
"According to this article, all they eat is 'launch meat.' "
One bite later, the pun sunk in. He'd gotten me again! I clutched my stomach and groaned. Dad smiled.