By John Breneman
Uh, hi Mom. I just wanted to say, uh,
Happy Mothers Day. And thank you ... for literally everything.
Like for that time back in '61 when
you went to the hospital and it was really painful, but
you hung in there, and then when you came home, you were
holding me in your arms. Or all
those times when I made Winnie-the-Pooh and you got me cleaned
up, good as new.
Have I ever mentioned that I am eternally
grateful for the approximately 8-12 tons of food you have
given me over the years, even, in retrospect, the 14 kilograms
of lima beans. (I only ate three kilos though, the other
11 are hidden in a crawl space in our old house in Pennsylvania.)
And thank you for the nice DNA. I really
am enjoying it and promise never to monkey around with cloning
or tissue regeneration.
Oh and while I think of it, thanks for
the name. I know it must have hurt your feelings when I
was about 8 and I announced that I didn't really like the
name John. When I decided there were too many of us at school,
and so could you please just call me Catfish from now on?
Talk about humoring a kid. I'll never
forget my birthday cake that year. Eight candles and "Happy
Birthday, Catfish" in sweet cursive frosting.
Now that I'm older and wiser I also
feel I should thank you for putting up with my (inherited?)
eccentricities, even when I refer to myself by my favorite
pseudonym. You know the one: Arturo DiMaunchie.
This is a family newspaper, but I guess
its OK to mention that my rump still thanks you for your
philosophical opposition to corporal punishment. (P.S. Thanks
too for firing that mean baby sitter who spanked me with
my Hot Wheels track.)
And may I please express my enduring
gratitude for teaching me to be polite. I don't know what
you did, but I get a huge kick out of being extra polite
to people. Thank you, my dear mother, for this and so many
other simple gifts.
Thank you also for these things:
-- For the way you took care of everything, all the while
letting Dad think he was really calling the shots.
-- For that time when I lied to you,
remember? About my involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal.
And you said, "Hmmm, is that what really happened?"
And of course I broke down and told the truth, learning
from you that it was better to be honest than to go on trying
to protect President Reagan and Oliver North.
-- For stopping me from wearing those
blue pants with the extra-hideous stripe embroidered down
each leg to school for the fourth straight day back in '72.
-- For not panicking when I got Ds in
penmanship from Mr. Mariner in the fifth grade because you
knew that what I wrote was much more important than how
it looked on a piece of paper, and that it was essential
to encourage and nurture an active imagination in your children.
-- For that time when I stubbed my big
toe on a deranged armadillo when we went to the zoo in Afghanistan
(OK, it was in the pool during a vacation in Maine) and
you stopped the very rotation of the Earth so it wouldn't
throb quite so much.
-- For that time when I was about 5
or 6 and I put on your boots and went in the closet... On
second thought, never mind about that time.
-- For getting me all those great shirts
and, really, for knowing me better than I know myself.
My appreciation and love for you cannot
be overstated, even under the intense pressures of satire.
But most of all, thank you so much Mom for your joyful,
tender, protective, fearless, empowering, unconditional
and life-giving love.
By John Breneman
I'm in the newspaper business today thanks to the nurturing
influence of a very wise gentleman. Nelson Mandela. Wait no,
I'm just kidding. Somewhere along the line I became a pathological
jokester. Let me start again.
in the newspaper business today thanks to the nurturing influence
of a very wise gentleman. My dad.
Back in '83 I obtained a degree in that most marketable of
subjects -- philosophy. But other than a cross-country adventure
with a childhood friend, I didn't exactly have my future mapped
I knew I didn't want to be a Maytag man, a pentium chip magnate,
or a sea urchin monger. And I was ill-suited for any position
requiring a fancy jacket and decorative noose (aka tie).
Though I had enjoyed many a rollicking game of cops and robbers
as a youth, I was not gunning for a career busting bad guys
or pulling bank jobs.
I was not cut out to be a butcher or a brain surgeon. Professional
soybean farming was not a field I was inclined to pursue.
And I just didn't think I had what it took to become a systems
analyst, forensic scientist or Triple Action Gold Bond Powder
I was a human resource without a cause. In what I now recognize
as a desperate cry for help, I actually took a seminar from
some people who wanted to make money by having me sell mutual
funds to my closest friends. Then I got caught up briefly
in some scam involving solar panels.
I was anxious to begin making my humble contribution to the
Gross National Product, but I didn't picture myself toiling
for Eastman Kodak, Chuck E Cheese or Bristol-Myers Squibb.
The $20,000 question --"What are you going to do with
your life?" -- loomed large.
I didn't know. But somehow, my dad did.
And so it came to pass that my dad, who knew that I liked
to write, offered unto his first-born a few simple words of
fatherly occupational therapy.
He said, "Get a job, you lousy bum!" Whoops, kidding
What he really said was, "Why don't you go up and talk
to the lady who runs the York Weekly?"
Hmmm. I did and, soon after, my first byline appeared in
my hometown paper -- a preview of the 1984 York Wildcats track
season. It's a collector's item now, selling for as much as
18 cents on the eBay online auction house.
Fast-forward 20 years from my pop's ink-stained epiphany,
and now I'm in charge of a pretend newspaper called the Humor
Gazette. This means that when momentous occasions like Father's
Day roll around, it is my sworn duty to concoct some meaningful
And so the topic of the day is fathers. My particular dad
(I'll call him Ernie because that's his name) just turned
70 and I think he's glad I didn't follow his footsteps into
the coal mines of western Pennsylvania.
There I go joking around again. I wonder where I get that.
(Chief suspects: a 75-year-old male caucasian whose street
name is "Ernie" and his longtime accomplice, "Jill.")
My dad was a self-described "Depression Baby,"
a term he often invoked when making us clean all the food
off our plates. At one time he was a dashing young Air Force
pilot and today I would like to salute him. I just hope he
doesn't mind me teasing him about the smoking.
For years he worked as a big-time adman in a Pittsburgh skyscraper
that I remember being awed by when he brought me there for
a visit. He fondly recalls that the job required exhilarating
bursts of creativity, but he tired of the corporate rat race
around '72 and shucked it all to move his family up to a little
place called York, Maine.
It was one of the most important decisions of his life, and
he nailed it. To this day, I and my brother and sister thank
him on bended knee. He brought us to the ocean. He brought
My dad is the man and I love him more than I could ever say.
Fortunately, he was never big on those "when I was your
age" speeches. You know the ones: The old-timer tells
how in order to get to school each day he had to crawl 14
miles on his belly through the jungles of Vietnam, swim through
a boiling tar pit teeming with leeches and piranhas, and then
pole vault over a barbed-wire electric fence to beat the first-period
bell at 4:45 a.m.
But he did teach me a thing or two. Stuff like:
* Keep your eye on the ball to prevent unpleasant facial injuries.
* Wait at least 30 minutes after eating lemon meringue pie
before scuba diving for pirate treasure in the York River.
* Avoid uneccesary contact with muggers, murderers and manslaughterers.
* Don't smoke cigarettes; and stand at attention when the
surgeon general is talking to you.
* Birds and bees have absolutely nothing to do with sex.
* Nuclear weapons are not toys.
Also this: Family values are cool. You can do anything you
set your mind to. And, for goodness sake, utilize personal
hygiene products every so often.
Humor Gazette editor John Breneman also answers to the
name Ernie Jr.