This Is My Last Chip
It’s a little-known fact that my dad was actually pretty funny.
He wasn’t the funny hat, song and dance or trash-taking humor. He was more the witty, have-to-think-twice and Wait, was that actually funny? type humor.
I think it’s said that if you have to explain your joke, it’s just not that funny. Or maybe it’s the wrong audience. Or maybe the delivery. Or timing. Or content. But if you’re a part of the inner circle and he doesn’t have to explain the background of the joke and can deliver it at his own pace in his own way, then it just works.
Then it’s even better because of the fact that others don’t get it. It’s even better because you do get it. You’re a part of the inner circle and you’re proud to be a part of it. A place where there is no need for explanation or background or setting the scene. You just know, you just get it.
You often get this with family, especially close family of course. But it’s more often with someone who you’ve spent a lot of time with, but not just time together, but time that you actually wanted to spend together. Like friends do. Or really good friends. The easiest, wittiest and best jokes are the ones among best friends.
Maybe that’s why he never made it very far on the stand-up comedy circuit. Of course, he didn’t actually try to get on the stand-up comedy circuit or at least, not the public one. He tried his hand at our family’s stand-up stage and even there, it was often just the sound of crickets. But once in a while, there was something that stuck and it was pure dad.
“I’ll be here all week.”
Here’s the scene. You’re at a Mexican restaurant. Preferably one with fresh tortilla chips, ideally thin and light, hot with oil and a selection of salsas to choose from. I think there’s some scientific theorem that has proven that you can’t just eat a few. You pretty much will finish that first basket. If they ask if you want more, it takes a Herculean power of mind to decline it. They’re free, they’re abundant and they’re delicious. Who in their right mind would say no? Exactly.
We’re through a few baskets, but we’re all still scavenging each chip and heaping on the salsa. When the waiter comes to take our order, it’s as if he’s interrupting our dinner. The nerve! Hyenas being bothered from their antelope kill by a pesky buffalo.
We all realize we should probably slow down the pace or we’re going to … wait for it, wait for it, I’ll just let my mom chime in, “You’re going to ruin your dinner if you’re keep eating all of those chips.”
My dad picks up a chip, holds it up for us all to see and announces with clarity and purpose, “This is my last chip.”
We nod and look at each other and don’t really get it. Then we all continue eating chips. But dad does too.
“Hey, I thought that was going to be your last chip,” I say.
He is prepared for this commentary and is ready with his reply, “That is my last chip,” he says as he points to it on the table and then proceeds to eat more chips. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in not completely comprehending what he’s doing. Sensing the lack of comprehension, he points again to the chip again and says, “That will be my last chip.”
Finally, his lava-brain family gets it. It’s brilliant if you think about it–which we apparently needed to do and for quite some time.
He proudly continued to munch on the chips, a slight smile on his face as he knows he pulled over a fast one on his entire family. We, too, are proud as it’s not everyday that he displays such wit and speed combined with humor that we all actually, truly think is funny. But this is undeniable. It’s genius.
He continues to eat the chips. He enjoys the chips more than he enjoys the Mexican food. Although it must be stated, and I’ll take the liberty here to use a little math which would make him proud, that the amount of chips consumed before said dinner is inversely proportional to the enjoyment of the oversized starchy platter of Mexican fare.
He smiles in victory and it takes some time (some forty-or-so years to be exact) to understand what he has done. You see, my dear friend, he has enjoyed the chips all of his life while he holds that last one to be savored at a later date, maybe on a rainy day. He has enjoyed his life as if no more baskets would come. He enjoyed not only every night out at a Mexican place, but cherished every basket and, dare I say, every chip.
If dinner is the destination then the chips are the journey. He had no regrets in his life. He ate chips all the way through. He did what he wanted when he wanted. He retired at 60 after a satisfying career and then did exactly what he wanted to do for the next 17 years.
So what about that last chip? Is that today? Does he hold onto it for eternity while we enjoy each basket in memoriam? I don’t know.
I’m having a hard time with that last chip. I’d rather that he was he here by my side, smiling in his knowing way, saving every chip and not worrying about the dinner he was certainly ruining. But he is no longer here, at least in a physical state. There is no way I’ll ever eat another basket of chips (and haven’t in years) without thinking about his This Is My Last Chip joke.
I raise not my glass tonight in his honor, but I raise a chip. A symbol of enjoying every moment of your life while holding off to the side a secret that you knew would serve you until you needed that last chip. I suppose that today is that day. Here’s to you, dad.