I am the baby of the family. With that status comes certain inalienable rights. Like
I get to be spoiled. I don’t have to beg for one darn thing — I get it the first time
I ask. I get the more relaxed parents because my siblings have broken them in…or
perhaps, broken them down. That’s just the way it is.
But because I am the baby there are other things that also fall on me, things that
are out of my control. Take my name, for instance. Because I am the baby, I will
answer to just about anything. Growing up I thought Jolee-Randy-Gay-Whoever-
you-are was my first name. But that was more what Mom called me. With Daddy,
there was a litany of names he called me, depending on the day, situation, or my
age. I was Lidda kid, Sadie, kidnick, Weezie, which then became shortened to
Weeze. But I think my very favorite nickname was Lucky Gay.
I think it started with my brother and sister kind of muttering it under their
breath, confirming with each other and rolling their eyes, “Lucky Gay.” But Daddy
ran with it. And you know, I think it’s a pretty appropriate name, really, when you think about
it. I am lucky.
I got to have two parents who stayed married to each other for nearly 61 years —
a record I will never be able to claim myself. Not only did they stay married, but my parents really liked
each other. Sure there were arguments, but the important part was seeing that they could work things
out and still love each other. A million times in my life I saw my father walk by Momma
and pinch her butt or cop a feel. Momma would shriek at Daddy, “Oh Ralph, stop
it!” “What?” he’d playfully respond, as if he had no idea what she was talking about.
He got such a kick out of getting her riled up. And that was normal for us.
I remember as an adult talking to friends and being stunned that they had never
seen their parents be loving toward each other. Never saw their parents kiss, or
laugh together, or have that secret knowing look. Mom and Dad had that. Not only
did they model how to be good partners, but it just made me happy to see that kind
of behavior. Lucky me!
I got to go off to college to play, and learn, and play, and grow up, and play. I had a
really good time in college. And my father supported me. Lucky me! And I know he
was proud of me. He went to all my recitals and shows and concerts. He stood tall,
with his chest puffed out. I’d get a “Good job, Weeze.” That meant a lot.
Daddy once taught us kids a little prayer. It was just a short two-liner, so I added
a little more. Tell me what you think.
Our father who art in heaven,
Hallowell be his middle name.
His kingdom come, his will was done,
Be it in Massachusetts, Florida, or Maine.
I got my father’s sense of humor. Actually, all three of us kids did. I don’t know if
that’s something innate, that I was born with, or if it’s from observing the master.
And you all know he was a master storyteller. Every night Daddy would come home
from work, dinner cooking on the stove, and we’d sit in the living room and talk
while Mom and Dad had a little happy hour. In the old days Dad would drink his
Schlitz and Momma would sip her wine. I kind of sat back and listened. Daddy would
tell us the funniest stories of screw-ups at work. One name that comes to mind is
Luddie. We heard lots of stories about Luddie. I haven’t a clue who the guy was,
but I can clearly remember looking forward to that day’s hilarious story about the
Our house always had company. People would pop in and visit, and the joke telling
would begin. I always knew when it began, because they sent me to the other
room. “Gay Louise, go in the other room. Daddy’s going to say something you can’t
hear.” Man, that would irk me. But I was a clever child. I would go down the hallway
to my room and shut the door loudly so they would know (or thought they knew) I
was in. I’d wait for a couple of seconds and then almost silently open the door back
You know how to do that, right? While the door is shut, you twist the knob to its
fullest and then slowly pull the door open. But only enough so your ear fits in the
open space. I always missed the first minute of Daddy’s joke, but he was such a
good storyteller that I could piece it together. And the best part was the punch
line. I always got to hear those, and that was when I had to cover my mouth and
not laugh out loud … very difficult for me! Usually I’d run and bury my head in a
pillow so Mom and Dad wouldn’t hear me guffawing…because I got the joke.
You know, now that I think about it, I would have to say his timing was the best
part of the story or the joke. Daddy had impeccable timing. He could hold an
audience spellbound. He’d set the stage, pause a little, give a look, draw them in,
bring them up to— wait for it — the punch line! Yeah, I learned from the master.
Actually it’s lucky us. All three of us kids are lucky. And we all know it. Jolee, you
got Daddy the longest. You got to visit day in and day out. Daddy so looked forward
to your coming every night at 6:15. Even in Barre, you probably saw Daddy the
most. Proximity has its payoff. The day-to-day memories you have are treasures
for you to keep, always. And you have all his little ditties memorized: Little Brown
Jug, the pig got up and slowly walked away, the monkey and the baboon, oh my son-
yay. He had quite a repertoire, and you know them all. Lucky you!
And Randy, well you are the crowned prince! You were his boy, and when you
became an adult, you and he got to play together. A lot. You got Daddy into the
Navy for a week, something the U.S. Government couldn’t do! You and he had a good
time. I don’t want to know about it, I just know you had a gooood time. And you
are funny. You too can weave a good yarn! But I think Daddy was proudest of you
because of your selfless moments, when people would come up and tell him about
some nice, unexpected deed you did. You help people, just to be nice. You make a
person’s day by being kind. You truly live by the Golden Rule. And that gave him and
Mom great satisfaction. Lucky you!
I have XM radio, and I was listening to Oprah last Saturday as I was driving to
Wegmans to grocery shop. Appropriately enough her guest that afternoon was a
man who specialized in dealing with patients at the end of their lives, especially
those who were terminally ill. He said the most important thing for the patient is
that they get a chance to resolve anything they’re upset about or that they regret.
He told of a story where the patient, a man, asked if someone would be in the room
to help him resolve things with his family. Apparently he hadn’t been very nice to
them, and he was asking for help.
We don’t have that problem. Never did. Lucky us! Do we get angry with each other?
Sure. Do we sometimes get our feelings hurt? Of course. But we forgive and move
on. I got to say goodbye to Daddy a week ago. And while it was horribly difficult to
let go, I have absolutely no regrets. I didn’t have to apologize to him for anything.
We said how much we loved each other, and I said how much I would miss him and
that I would think of him every single day. And that I knew he would be watching
over me every day. “Righto, Weeze,” he said.
Lucky me. Lucky Diana. Lucky Jolee. Lucky Randy. Lucky Weeze. Lucky Gay.