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Now I've 'Groan' Accustomed to My Father's Humor

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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.

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