Humor à la Papa


Happy Father’s Day to all of you, especially our writing dads.

Being a dad is a really special thing, because as a dad, you are half responsible for bringing children into the world and bringing them up. In some cases, you might even be bringing up your children by yourself, and that makes you all the more special. Today’s world is so different from the world I grew up in, and so much has changed, even in the way kids are brought up. There’s a lot I don’t agree with because I see the huge difference between those of us brought up a whole generation or two ago, and I can’t say I’m in complete agreement with all the changes. I do like the fact that Dads are no longer tyrants in the home, where the best thing he is known for besides bringing home the bacon is meting out punishment that moms can’t seem to do. I like the fact that more and more dads are accepting the role of co-parent, taking a more active role in raising their kids. I like the fact that dads no longer need to show themselves as perfect or infallible and are allowed to be emotional and human, which is what they really are, after all. I can’t say my dad was perfect or infallible, but somehow, my mom made it seem like he was someone we had to fear because he could give us a worse and more painful spanking (or belting) when we were particularly bad, which really didn’t happen. Nonetheless, that’s one of the reasons I tried to be on my best behavior all the time, to avoid being the object of my dad’s ire. My mom also warned us to always be quiet and not disturb our dad when he was watching TV, napping, reading the newspaper, or doing some work at home. As a roentgenologist, my dad often read x-rays at home, something he did for free at a clinic in our neighborhood; he also read x-rays for a couple of other clinics, which would bring the plaques to him at the end of the day and return to pick them up the next morning. He did this in his small “office”–a corner where he had a lightbox, table, typewriter, and several books and journals. He would stay in that corner when he was also studying something new, reading medical journals, or some other books or newspapers and magazines. When he was in that corner, we could not disturb him or my mom would pounce on us, telling us to leave him alone. But then, my mom was from a generation when dad was god and children were meant to be seen, not heard. While we had a chance to be heard every now and then, dad was still god and my mom made that very clear. Nonetheless, my dad tried his best to be a kind, generous dad. What really set him apart from my mom was how he loved to tell jokes and the supper table was usually his venue for sharing the latest joke he had read or heard from his fellow doctors. His attempts at joviality and light-heartedness were usually frowned at by my mom, and my siblings often had a good laugh with my dad at the supper table. It’s one of the memories I cherish and probably one of the reasons I enjoy reading joke books so much. I’m pretty sure my brothers and I picked our sense of humor from my dad. I just wish I could remember all the jokes he shared, although I know medical humor is not always a brand everyone finds funny. Because of my dad, I used to buy joke books. I had the Irish, Jewish, Medical, Religious, Lawyer and a wide range of topical Joke Books poking fun at all the usual races and professions people love to poke fun at. In fact, I’ve been considering compiling all the jokes I like to share on Facebook into a book. There’s always a good market for laughter!

…and papa was there (poem)


it was a dark and stormy night

and papa was there

to put me to sleep

i had always wanted to be a girl scout

and everyone’s mommy and daddy

was at the induction

to pin the tiny girl scout pin

and tie the white kerchiefs on

i thought no one would come

and just when they called my name

papa was there

mama brought me to my grade school graduation

but didn’t stay

and somewhere in the middle of it all

as i strained to see the tiny faces in the crowd

papa was there

with his camera and his big almost-smile

and when my tummy hurt

really bad in school and

i had to get an appendectomy

before the anaesthetic got to work

papa was there holding my hand

and his eyes and shining eyeglasses

were the last thing i saw

floating next to the iv bottle

and when i walked down the aisle

papa was there holding me

like a little girl again

and smiling and crying

as i was

and when bianca came into the world

i thought i saw papa at the window

in a green surgical smock and cap

and when i woke up

there was a bag of sweets and cakes

and papa

and when i die

wherever i go i’m quite sure

the first thing i see will be papa.


© Cindy Lapeña, 2012


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thunder and lightning and papa (poem)


i was as proud as a little girl could be

at six

with my very own room

and my very own bed

and my very own closets

and a door i could close

to be alone

until the big storm

when thunder roared

and the lightning

turned the shadow of

our neighbor’s caimito tree

into grotesque arms

swaying and reaching

in the blue-white glow

of the stormy night

and the wind

lashed at the windows

and left an open one


and banging

and banging

i lay awake

crouched under my blankets

trying to shut my eyes

not to see

the monster arms

reaching for me

but they did

and i forgot

how nice it was

to have my very own room

and my very own bed

and my very own closets

and a door i could close

and i screamed

until papa came

and papa stilled

the thunder and lightning

so i could sleep.


© Cindy Lapeña, 2012


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