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 Writer's Desk 

April 29, 2005
Vol. 3, No. 3



Dennis Coday Three words guaranteed to induce laughter

By Dennis Coday, NCR staff writer

A schoolmate came over to visit my two boys, 10 and 8, the other day. I learned this when I heard incredibly loud singing. I was inside the house reading by an open window, but I would have heard the singing through a closed window. Through a stone wall. That is how loud it was.

I had to wonder what anyone within ear shoot thought: three boys on bicycles circling our driveway in tight formation singing with all the gusto they could muster. "Glory, glory to God! Glory to God in the highest! Glory to God in the hi-hi-hi-ghest!" Etc. They really relished that "hi-hi-hi-ghest" phrase. These are without doubt Catholic school boys.

My first inclination was to lean out the window and tell them to pipe down. But I couldn't do it. They were having too much fun. And surely God must have appreciated such genuine praise.

I only wished that our pastor would drive by -- our house is on his route to the church -- so he would think I was fulfilling my responsibilities as parental catechist.

I tried to go back to my book, but couldn't. The fun was too tempting. I went outside to see what else they could get up to.

My two guys can have fun anywhere, anytime (even, perhaps especially, when they are not supposed to). Anyone who has raised boys probably knows this. Take suppertime for instance. We try to make suppertime family time; everyone shares from their day. Well, sometimes our sharing and conversation turns -- anyone who has raised boys probably knows how this goes -- it turns down right silly.

Recently my eldest told about a friend -- I suspect the one who came over to ride bikes -- who looked up the word "spank" in the dictionary. The dictionary is, of course, a great source of humor -- as anyone who has raised boys can probably tell you. "Do you know what it said?" my boy asked. "To slap upon the buttocks the buttocks. It's in the dictionary!" You should have heard the peals of laughter.

"Buttock" is one of the three words central to third and fourth grade humor: "naked," "underwear" and "buttocks." The use of any one of these three words will make any joke funny, any story hilarious.

Laughter is infectious, and even though my four year old didn't at the time know what buttocks are (by the end of the night he knew) he laughed as hard as everyone else.

He just doesn't quite have the hang of humor yet, but not getting the joke doesn't stop him form having a good time. His jokes usually don't make much sense (accept to himself), but that doesn't stop him from telling them. And laughing by himself.

He does in fact know how to have a good time, and he generally has a great time, all the time, which is probably why it is so hard to get him to sleep at night.

He is not one of those kids who is on the go until he crashes into a deep sleep. He doesn't crash. As the evening wears on, you can see the energy drain from him slowly. The activity level drops until he has to sit with a blanket. Finally the head droops and then he has to lie down. He's down but not yet out. He makes two, three, four flops then nestles his head on the pillow. He looks at me through half-open eyes.

"Dad can I ask you something?"

"Yes. What?"

"Dad is Halloween past already?"

"Yes, it's past already, but it will come again in a few months."

His eyes flicker shut. Then open. Then shut. His breathing gets slower and shallower. He takes a last peek -- I can see the hesitancy in his eyes -- and then he is gone.

Why does he struggle so hard against sleep, I wonder. Most nights I can't wait to slide between the sheets and welcome sleep like a friend. Why does he so obstinately want to stay awake? Is he afraid of missing something? What is it?

I'm afraid that when he is old enough to be able to tell me, he'll be too old to remember what kept him awake. Dennis Coday's e-mail address is dcoday@ncronline.org

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