51. The Jokester

51. The Jokester

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters

The Jokester

Family jokes, though rightly cursed by strangers, are the bond that keeps most families alive.

~Stella Benson

“Make sure you hold your daddy’s hand all the time on the trip,” warned my brother’s mother-in-law, Louise, to my ten-year-old niece, Jordan.

“I will!” shouted Jordan as she was about to get into the car where my brother, Jeff, had been “eavesdropping.”

As they left in the car, my brother decided to play a “trick” on Jordan’s “Mimi” (the name all of Louise’s grandchildren lovingly called her)—with the help of my sweet, adorable niece.

Ten hours later, Jordan called Mimi and said with a face that would make the best poker player proud: “Mimi, I made it to Washington, D.C. It is so nice. But I don’t know where Daddy is. I know you said to always hold his hand tight, but there was only room on the subway for one. So Daddy drove his car, and I took the subway. Daddy asked a very nice man who was already on the subway to help me find my stop. The nice man did, but Daddy’s not here. What should I do?”

I could just imagine Louise fainting, dropping the phone as she fell to the cold, hard floor. Luckily, right then Jeff and Jordan screamed into the phone, “Gotcha!”

Yep, that’s my brother—the “jokester.” I’m sure many families have a family member who loves to play practical jokes on other family members. Often, it is quite humorous, but only in hindsight.

Jeff got his “jokester” trait many, many years ago. When Jeff was eight and I was six, we were driving with our father to Pennsylvania to visit our grandparents. My mother and sister had flown there because my parents agreed that the long car trip would be too difficult and stressful for my four-year-old sister. (The real question: “Stressful for whom?”) So, Jeff, my dad and I headed out in my father’s red Oldsmobile Cutlass station wagon on the long trip to Pennsylvania. My father thought the car trip would be a fun adventure for the three of us. However, he soon learned that an “adventure” did not necessarily come with “fun.”

Jeff and I were sitting in the back seat, always fighting and bickering, even though our father tried to keep our minds busy by playing “road games” while we were driving. Finally, on a rural highway in Arkansas, my father screamed, “Enough! If you don’t stop screaming, I’ll drop ya’ll off in the middle of the road!”

What do you think happened? Do you think we started acting politely? Of course not.

What do you think my father did? Do you think he kept his word concerning his “threat”?

Actually, he did. He slammed on his brakes on the barren highway in the middle of the cornfields in rural Arkansas and screamed, “Get out!”

I was very scared. I had never seen my father act so angrily. I was beginning to cry, but Jeff said nothing as he nudged me out of the car. My father then, seemingly still irate, puffed and “slammed on the gas” and drove away.

We were all alone. I began to sob, but not Jeff. He just said, “Mike, come on. Hurry up! Let’s hide in the fields. You know Dad will be back in a second. He just wanted to prove a point.”

Sure enough, thirty seconds later, I could see a red station wagon approaching from the fields where we were hiding. The car slowed down, then accelerated, and then slowed down again as if the driver was looking for valuable objects left on the side of the road. (Of course, those very valuable objects were us.)

The red station wagon screeched to a stop as my father jumped out screaming frantically, “Kids! Kids! Jeff, Mike, where are you?” My father quickly became hoarse from screaming, and his worried face was soaked with perspiration. As he quickly circled around, looking for us, he appeared to be in tears while thinking, “My precious sons! WHAT IN THE WORLD HAVE I DONE?” And then he crumpled to the ground.

Jeff nudged me again as he whispered, “Let’s go!” He ran out from the fields to the road toward our father, who looked up and saw us. My father jumped up and started running toward us, screaming with happiness and hugging us.

Yes, my dad wanted to teach us a lesson, but exactly who was taught the lesson? And exactly what lesson was taught in the fields of Arkansas? To my father, the answer to those questions did not matter. His only concern was that he had his kids back safely in his arms.

So, Jeffrey was, and is, “the jokester” of the family. Now I wonder what tricks Jordan will play on Jeff in the years to come. I can hardly wait!

~Michael Jordan Segal, MSW

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