My grandfather--my mother's father, who we called "Pa-Paw"--was one of the most important people in my life. He was an odd duck, but something about that made him appealing to me. This summer marks 20 years since he died. I still think about him every day.
Pa-Paw clearly had an obsessive-compulsive personality: he was very fussy about the order of things, and tended to become moderately anxious if he wasn't in control. I have a lot in common with him.
One of the other things I share with him is his sense of humor. It was strangely quirky, and I can rarely recall anyone really appreciating it as fully as did I. Pa-Paw didn't really tell jokes as much as he loved goofing with people. And he always thought they were in on the joke. Most times, they weren't. His antics lead to a lot of embarrassment for most of the family.
But I was in awe.
One of the bits he would wear out was when he would take us to Pizza Hut for lunch. Every time--really, Every.Single.Time.--he would cozy up to the waitress and say: "We'd like a large peperoni pissa, and a large picture of Spike."
The waitress, noticing something slightly odd about the words he'd just verbalized, would ask: I'm sorry, what is your order?" He'd smile this subtle little smirk, and say:
"Large pissa, with pepperoni. Picture of Spike."
To make sure she had it right, the waitress would read back the order, making sure she enunciated "pizza," "pitcher" and "Sprite" correctly for the old man. He'd tell her she nailed it, and smile. He never let on like he knew better, even though it was obvious he did.
(Like I said: it wasn't the sort of joke that was "ha-ha" funny. It was funny in a performance art sort of way. He wasn't afraid to let others think he was stupid in order to put a smile on the face of his grand-kids.)
My kids never had the chance to know the man, so I tend to tell lots of stories to them about him. It's important to me they have some understanding of who he was as a person. So in recognition of the 20th anniversary of his death, my kids and I drove through Wendy's. I put down the window, and leaned into the speaker:
Clerk: "May I take your order?"
Me: "Yeah, thanks. I'd like two kids meals, please. And a Baconator." (Except I didn't pronounce it "Bacon-'A-tor. I pronounced it "Ba-'CON-a-ter.") "A Ba-'CON-a-ter with cheese, please."
Clerk: "I got your kids meals. But what's the other sandwich you ordered?"
Me: "A Ba-'CON-a-ter." (I had to shush the kids in the back, they were laughing so hard.)
Clerk: "You mean, a baconater."
Me: "Yeah, a Ba-'CON-a-ter."
Clerk: "It's pronounced "Bacon-'A-tor."
Me: "Oh... I bet you get that mispronunciation a lot, huh."
Clerk: "No, not really. Pull around, please."
I wish somehow Pa-Paw could have heard that exchange. He'd have peed himself laughing.