I have talked about my brother before on this blog. He is a wonderful and very artistic young man.
He also experiences autism.
His creativity and his strong literal sense combine to form a very interesting outlook on life. Although he has many strengths in his personality, spontaneous humor is not among them. Because of this, my Father was determined to teach Joe how to tell a joke. He started with the old classic, “What’s black and white and read all over?” When the punchline of, “newspaper” was given, Joe would act confused. Dad would explain the wordplay involved and why it was funny. Joe would then agree newspapers were read all over the world, but would never break even the slightest smile during the exchange.
As time went on, they went through the same routine repeatedly.
Most men would have admitted defeat. Most men would have simply accepted that some battles were not worth fighting. My Father was not most men. Again and again he would patiently march once more unto the breach – continuing to practice the same joke with the same results.
Every. Single. Time.
In fact, it went on for years. As time passed, the explanation of the punchline and Joe’s expressionless reaction became a tradition that proved far more entertaining than the original joke ever was. It played out more times then I can possibly count. It gradually became an in-joke for our family.
My Father passed away six years ago. Although I tried to continue the tradition, it just wasn’t the same. We still joked about the exchanges, but it was relegated to category of fond memory.
During dinner a few months ago, Joe surprised everyone by asking, “What’s black and white and read all over?” We all sat in stunned silence for a moment until my oldest daughter finally asked, “what?”
Joe replied with, “A newspaper…”
And after a heartbeat’s hesitation added “… that’s read all over,” while breaking into an uncontrollable fit of the giggles.