Sunday, April 14, 2019

Matching Wits

"Better a witty fool than a foolish wit." - William Shakespeare

Peanut should have a new name. If I were still blogging regularly and chronicling our daily interactions and experiences, I would have renamed her “Tweenut” by now.

You see, our dear Peanut Tweenut recently turned 12. TWELVE! And she is every bit the aloof, dismissive, self-centered know-it-all that we you were at that age.

Don’t get me wrong... I still love her to pieces.

And every now and then, we get to experience the Peanut we know is in there. The Peanut that will one day grow into a mighty oak. (Do peanuts grow into oak trees? I digress.)

Sweet, funny, intelligent Peanut.

This is the story of one of those times.

Tweenut said something so witty, so clever, that it prompted me to wipe away the cobwebs from DKL once again and fire off this blog post. We were in the car, just me and her. I was so proud and impressed that I had to call My Director from the car to tell her what she had said, after I was done laughing.

Luna and Matey now watch over us from
on top of the cabinet in the living room.
It all starts, as many of our stories so often do, with our dogs. Now, I haven’t shared this - or anything, for that matter - with you yet, so we’re gonna do it right now, fast and painful like ripping off a Band-Aid. Here goes: our two beloved dogs, Luna and Matey, have gone to the rainbow bridge. Luna in November. Matey in January. It was a very difficult couple of months. We still love them and miss them so very much and sometimes can’t believe they are gone. They were sewn into the fabric of our family. Still are. Despite their being gone in body, they remain with us in spirit. Always. And here’s an example.

So Tweenut and I were in the car, going from soccer to lunch to lacrosse on a typical busy suburban Saturday. Even though I was following the GPS, I was unfamiliar with exactly where we were and shouted, in Matey’s voice, “Where are we?!” (You don’t give your dogs voices? Shame on you.)

Matey’s voice is best described as laid back and matter-of-fact, like Thomas Haden Church’s character on Wings. But with a lisp. (Because when he lost his eye in a knife fight before we adopted him, it affected his speech. What, your rescue dogs don’t have a dark, made-up back story? Shame on you.)

Where are we?!” I shouted in Matey’s lispy voice to make Tweenut laugh. Then I proceeded to remind her of a joke My Director and I made the previous weekend about Matey posthumously. (They still amuse us from beyond.)

Since Luna died first, and since she was the one true love of my life (apologies to My Director. She's aware), we asked our priest to come to the house to bless her ashes. It was a sweet little ceremony, if you could even call it that. I cried like a toddler who’s upset at the color of his fork.

Recently, Tweenut asked why we hadn’t come around to getting Matey's ashes blessed. (Typical second child syndrome is why.). This was refreshing thoughtfulness from Tweenut so I reached out to our priest again. But this time I told her she didn’t have to come to the house. She said just bring his ashes to church on Sunday and she’d do it after the service.

The first weekend after that we were away. The second was Tweenut’s Sunday birthday party with our families. The third we were just being lazy and didn’t want to go to church. And that is where our Matey shenanigans begin.

My Director had recorded all of the Jurassic Park movies for us to watch. So instead of going to church, we decided to lay on the couch and binge a little. (“Binge a little” being an oxymoron, of course.)

At one point during our sloth in this season of Lenten sacrifice, my Matey madness kicked in. So in full throated Matey voice I proclaimed, “Guys....” (Matey always starts his proclamations with “Guys...” I hope the PC police don’t take offense that he’s being hetero-normative or whatever. If they do, shame on them. He is a dead one-eyed dog, after all. Give him a break.)

“Guys,” Me-Matey said. “My ashes are sitting here in this cabinet, a shelf below Luna’s, mind you. Unblessed. That’s ridickerous.” (Matey couldn’t pronounce “ridiculous.” Another consequence of the pre-adoption knife fight.)
Matey's right. His ashes are on the bottom shelf.
Luna is perched on the shelf above him.

“And instead of getting me blessed today, you’re watching Jurassic Park?!,” Matey continued. (Jurassic, of course is pronounced “Jurathic” in Matey’s voice. Just so ya know.)

But he wasn’t done. “A movie that’s 25 years old! Daddy was a senior in high school when it was in theaters! Again...ridickerous.”

He was upset. And he had good reason to be. He sits there unblessed and physically and spiritually below Luna in the pecking order even in death. My Director and I had a good laugh at that one. I love that our dogs still bring us such joy even though they’re no longer with us. (And I admit, we’re a little crazy.)

Fast forward to the aforementioned Saturday suburban car ride. After my impromptu, “Where are we?!” in Matey's voice I reminded Tweenut of the Jurassic Park gag with My Director and me and Matey's ashes. Like a true Tweenut, she had gone out with her friends by that point in our Lazy Sunday.

I started doing the gag and she chimed in immediately, adding in Matey’s voice without skipping a beat: “Monstey would be so offended.”

Monstey, you see, was Matey’s favorite toy. It was a dinosaur. He slept with it, played with it, he adored it. He even made sweet love to it one Christmas morning: (You can also hear My Matey voice in this video.) And therein, my friends, lies the genius in Tweenut’s comment. She advanced the story. She used wit and improvisation to do it. She was smart and clever and didn’t miss a beat.

I told her this. I then explained wit to her. “It’s humor with intelligence,” I said.

“Anyone can make a fool of themselves and be a clown,” I told her. “It takes brains to be witty. To be truly funny."

This may be a small thing. You may be reading this and asking me, “This is what you re-emerged from blog hibernation for?”

Yes. Because it’s up to me as a dad to recognize the little things that are actually big things. Because Tweenut is trying out her sense of humor. She’s pushing the envelope sometimes and crossing the line others. We tell her when she crosses the line. When she's decidedly not funny.

And I need to tell her when she gets it right. I need to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. Especially when she’s the one being extraordinary.

I’m not saying I'm going to hand out participation trophies. But as she navigates these awkward and sometimes unforgiving years, I'm the one who needs to realize that she’s still a child, even if she doesn’t want to admit it. Even if she doesn’t act like it because she’s not my baby anymore.

Especially with “Tweenut” in full force.

You see, a dad and his Tweenut don’t have a lot in common. At least, not this one. One thing we do have in common, if I may be so bold, is wit.

I am so proud of my witty daughter.

“Monstey would be so offended,” is proof that Tweenut is not going to be the clown. It's easy to be the clown. To get the cheap laugh. But she’s smart. She gets it. Wait for your comedic moment and pounce without compromising your self-worth.

I should stop and celebrate more when the future comes out of my child’s mouth and it’s a bright one. If I don’t, then shame on me.

PS: Our newest member of the family arrived for Christmas. Meet Mocha:

She has brought laughter and joy these past few months and even has her own voice already. 

We just came upon the anniversary of Matey joining our family, which reminded me of THIS POST.

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