My dad is a funny guy. His humor can sometimes be inappropriate. Therefore, I blame him for anything funny I’ve ever said that offends you. I’ve inherited it. My mom hasn’t always been impressed with his jokes, and one could hardly blame her. She left her full time job when my brother Steve was born to work full time as a stay at home mom. She would spend 8 hours teaching us the right way to behave, and when Dad got home, he undid all of her hard work. I anticipate frustrating Sarah in much the same way.
You might have picked up the fact that I am of Jewish heritage. I get that from my mom’s side. My dad is primarily of German heritage, but not fully German, leaving me mostly Jewish. This is a great combination and has lent itself to many inappropriate jokes on my dad’s behalf. I think all of his favorite jokes are anti-Semitic in nature, not because he doesn’t love Jews, but because he loves hassling my mom just about more than anything in the whole world. Mom just ignores him. Although Mom is not offended, she is neither impressed nor amused by his jokes.
One of Dad’s shining moments happened when my brother Dan and I were toddlers. He thought it would be a good idea to teach us to throw our hand up in Nazi salute and say, “Heil Hitler!” I was a family embarrassment. At the age of 2, I could not get the words right. I tried my best. My hand would go up, but all that would come out of my mouth was, “Howie Hepter!” I was a real let down, not for lack of effort. Dan, however, had it down. This might be the only arena in which he ever showed an advanced nature. That’s probably not true, but most of our childhood fights came from comments like this, so for old times sake, I must insinuate that I am smart and he is not. He may punch me in the face when I see him next month as a result. Anyway, Dan had it down. As any child, he would randomly stand up and do what he knew was funny, seeking laughter of approval from onlooking adults. What he knew was funny, though, wasn’t funny in every situation…or neighborhood.
One day, my mom decided to pick up some delicious kosher treats from a Jewish delicatessen. I know for sure that Dan was there. I don’t know if I was. I would have been too young to remember the awesomeness that was about to occur. So they are walking through the store, Dan sitting up in the front of the cart, when Dan decided it was time to invoke laughter from the adults. He stood up in the cart, threw his hand in the air, and with perfect clarity shouted, “Heil Hitler!” My mom immediately grabbed him and ran, crying, from the store. As many times as I’ve heard the story, I’ve never heard anything about any of the Jewish people laughing. And I thought we were supposed to be a people with a great sense of humor.
The story stands as one of my dad’s crowning achievements. He probably wasn’t allowed to think it was funny for a while, but at this point, time and space have added to its level of funny. Everyone in the family laughs at the story. You know who is only hesitantly amused, though? Sarah. She’s only hesitantly amused, because it’s funny that it happened back then, but it won’t be funny if it happens with her son in the next couple of years. I mean, he already throws a wave that looks like a heil five, and that amuses both of us, but if he ever says those words, it will cease to amuse her. I think he’ll be okay with “howie hepter,” since no one ever really knew what I was saying, but he can’t say the mother of all HH salutes.