OPINION COLUMNS

Being a dad is no joke (usually)

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, June 14, 2014

The other day while I was working in the yard, my home-for-the-summer son came out and said he was going to Dairy Queen to pick up his paycheck.

“Tell her hi for me,” I said.

“Who?” he asked.

“The Queen, of course.”

Bob Buckel

Bob Buckel

He looked at me, expressionless. As he got into the car I heard him mutter, “Dad’s got jokes.”

I must have been born to be a dad. I’ve always had jokes – the dumber, the better. Now I learn it’s a genre – dad jokes, like mom jeans, nerd glasses, hipster t-shirts.

Dad jokes come as naturally to me as swimming to a fish, each followed by that imaginary rimshot.

So a horse walks into a bar. The bartender looks at him and says, “So, why the long face?”

That’s the best joke ever. I never fail to laugh – sometimes uncontrollably. My kids roll their eyes. “Always funny, Dad!” they say before they drift away, afraid they’ll encourage me.

Did you hear about the three strings at the bar? One decided he wanted a drink, so he walked over and demanded a beer.

The bartender said “Listen, we don’t serve drinks to strings.” He slunk back to the table, empty-handed.

The second string said, “I can do this!” and walked boldly to the bar, demanding a beer. The bartender said, “Hey, just like I told your buddy – we don’t serve drinks to strings! Beat it!” and he slouched back to his chair.

Finally the third string said, “Boys, I’m going for it!” He twisted himself up, tousled his hair and headed for the bar.

The bartender eyed him warily. “Aren’t you one of those strings?”

“Nope!” he said. “Frayed knot!”

It occurred to me lately that there’s a dad thread running through almost every story I do.

In a big lawsuit trial over fracking, the dad took the stand to testify. He had dealt with his own dizziness, headaches and nosebleeds for months. But when his wife and little girl got sick, he went into dad mode. He got the family out of that house, got them medical care, contacted a lawyer.

Asked what it made him feel like to have the health of his family threatened, he choked up. “You just feel so helpless,” he said.

Being dad is a serious job – so serious that often the only way we can deal with it is through dumb humor.

So a termite walks into a bar and says, “Where’s the bar tender?”

Last week I interviewed a mom and dad whose baby was born with a dizzying array of health problems. Almost the whole time we were talking, that big, strong dad was holding his daughter – talking to her, kissing on her head, coaxing her to grab his finger with her tiny hand.

When his wife spoke of the helpless feeling of seeing your little one connected to so many tubes and monitors in the hospital, he went silent. I knew he’d have given every ounce of his strength just to help that child.

It’s cool to see a guy that big wrapped around such a tiny finger.

Knock-knock.

Who’s there?

The interrupting sheep.

The interrupting sheep wh -

BAAAAAAAAAAAA!

The last two weeks in the Wise County courthouse, sad stories have unfolded involving young fathers.

In one case, it was a son’s testimony that likely put his dad in prison.

Your heart breaks for the son, seeing his father for the first time in over a year as he testifies of a spanking that turned into a beating, his fear, the bruises on his arm.

But your heart breaks for the father, too. He messed up. He knows it. Now he’s out of his son’s life. Talk about a beating.

In the other case, a young father went to prison over drugs and a firearm. The baby’s mom brought the little boy to the courtroom while the jury was out, and it was a touching scene – both the mother and dad wiping away tears, knowing this child will do a lot of his growing up without his dad around.

Dad knows he blew it. That boy needs his dad, and his dad won’t be there. I can’t imagine a worse punishment.

Because being Dad means being there. Leading, loving, advising, disciplining and championing your children. Setting an example. Showing them what real strength looks like – not tearing phone books in half, but taking care of those you love.

And sometimes, being Dad means cracking them up, breaking the tension, lightening the mood – no matter how corny the punch line.

So a guy walks into a bar with a frog growing out of his forehead. The bartender looks at him and says, “Wow, how did THAT happen?”

The frog points to his backside and replies, “It started out as a wart, right back here.”

My other son, back when I carried him around on my shoulders, took great delight in telling everyone within earshot, as pointed to his bum, “It started out as a wart RIGHT BACK HERE!”

He was about 4 – the ideal demographic for dad jokes.

The rest of you? Please, just roll your eyes and bear it. It’s a small price to pay.

Bob Buckel is editorial director for the Messenger.

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