2. The Day Dad Shot Conan

2. The Day Dad Shot Conan

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters


The Day Dad Shot Conan

The nightmare is you spend the rest of your life being funny at parties and then people say “Why didn’t you do that when you were on television?”

~Conan O’Brien

“Come quick, your dad just shot Conan!” my mother screamed into the phone.

“Conan who?” my brother asked.

“You know… Conan, the red-headed guy on the late show.”

“Huh?”

“Conan O’Brien—you know…”

“What do you mean he shot him?”

“He shot at the TV with a shotgun.”

“Holy cow, I’ll be right there!”

•••

My phone rang about 12:45 in the morning. It was my brother.

“Carol, we’ve got a problem at Mom and Dad’s. Can you come over?”

“What’s wrong?”

“Dad just tried to shoot Conan.”

“Who’s Conan?”

“The red-headed dude—Conan O’Brien.”

“Conan O’Brien?”

“Yep, and he almost shot Mom in the process.”

“Leroy, have you been drinking?”

“No, but I wish I had a drink right now. He didn’t like the way Conan laughed, so he got out of his recliner and found a shotgun behind the kitchen door. He found some shells, loaded the gun, and shot a hole in the kitchen floor. He reloaded and headed for the den to shoot the TV. He fired the gun, but he shot a hole through the den floor instead.”

“Oh, my gosh! I’ll be there in about ten minutes.”

As I raced to my childhood home, I knew things had gone from bad to worse. Dad’s Alzheimer’s was getting nearly out of control, almost to the point Mom could no longer deal with it without some help. My brothers and I had begged her for several months now to let us find someone to help her, but she had steadfastly refused. After all, Mom and Dad had been married for sixty years and she’d married him “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.” She wasn’t about to let someone else come in and take over her duties for the man she loved. Maybe, just maybe, this shooting event would make her change her mind.

As I pulled open the screen door and stepped up onto the back porch, I heard Dad say, “You are not taking my gun, and that’s that! Don’t think you’re too big for me to whup!”

“Dad, you don’t need a gun in the house. It’s dangerous. You could have killed Mom,” my brother tried to reason with him.

“I wasn’t even close to her. You think I can’t shoot any better than that? Who do you think taught you to shoot a gun?” Dad insisted.

At that point I opened the door and let myself into the kitchen where the heated conversation was taking place. Dad turned and stared at me, but his eyes were blank. After a few seconds, he turned to my brother and said, “Why didn’t you wake up the whole neighborhood?”

“What’s going on?” I asked as I pulled up a chair beside him. His weathered face and deep blue eyes looked tired. His white hair was tousled. The red and black plaid flannel shirt over the dark blue Dickies looked dirty and worn—it was his favorite. Where has my father gone? I thought to myself.

“Ask your brother what’s going on. He’s got all the answers,” he replied. This was so unlike him. The man I knew years ago would never have gotten his feathers ruffled like this and would never have talked in this hateful tone to anyone. Alzheimer’s is a terrible thing for those on the outside to deal with.

“Why’d you try to shoot Conan?” I asked.

With that question, he looked me straight in the eye as a wicked grin overtook the contours of his mouth. “Because I don’t like the way he laughs.”

I let that sink in a minute before I replied. “Why didn’t you just change the channel?”

Quickly and without having to make up an answer, he replied, “Because I shouldn’t have to change my channel, that’s why. He has no right to be in my living room laughing like a hyena.”

I had to turn my head away to keep him from seeing me smile. Even though we were dealing with a serious matter, I found it somewhat amusing that he thought he could eliminate Conan O’Brien by shooting him through the TV. I finally got my thoughts under control and asked, “Where’d you get the shotgun, Dad?”

“Behind the kitchen door.”

I looked at my brother. Supposedly all the weapons in the house had been removed months earlier. How did we miss the shotgun behind the kitchen door? My brother shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.

As I looked around the kitchen, I saw the hole in the floor from Dad’s first shot. “Looks like you missed, Dad,” I said.

He was silent.

I walked into the den to survey the damage to the floor in front of the TV. I noticed the position of his and mom’s recliners, hers perilously close to the second hole in the floor. Dear God, this could have been a disaster, I thought to myself, while Conan O’Brien continued to laugh in the background.

More than a dozen years have passed since Dad’s attempted shooting of Conan O’Brien. After a thorough search, all the guns and ammunition were removed from the house—again. The floors were repaired. Eventually, though, Dad and Mom had to be removed from the house, too, as his Alzheimer’s condition worsened. We moved them to an assisted living facility where Mom continued to care for him until his death two years later.

Late at night sometimes as I flip through the channels in search of something worthwhile to watch, the laughter of talk show hosts finds its way into my den. The older I get, the more annoyed I’ve become with this form of canned laughter for entertainment.

As I change the channel, I think, “Sorry you missed, Dad!”

~Carol Huff

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