The other day I heard my youngest daughter, Caroline, use this expression in reply to a waitress who asked if she wanted dessert-- "I'm so full if I eat anymore I'll pop!"
That made me laugh.
As soon as I asked myself where she ever heard that expression, I realized she'd learned it from me. She was imitating me, her father, when I'd said the same thing to waitresses who'd asked me if I wanted dessert. And I'd said it in order to make my children laugh.
Later that night I remembered that little expression was something I'd absorbed from my father when he'd responded to similar questions from waitresses. And I realize now that he'd done it to make me and my brother and sister laugh.
Imagine that… a toss-off comic line makes its way decades later from my father to the mouth of my daughter.
My father has been gone for many years, but I glimpse him occasionally in the words of his granddaughters who really only know him through old photos and stories.
I don't believe in ghosts… but I do believe that fathers—even after they die—continue to show up in our lives in literal, physical ways.
It can be as simple as the way we walk, or hold a pencil. For men it can be whether we put our socks on before or after our pants.
Our father's voices can echo in our minds when we hear ourselves utter expressions that we used to find odd, or even smirk at, when our fathers spoke them.
I used to roll my eyes when my father would greet me by saying, "Morning glory, what's your story!" And now I overhear myself saying those very words to my children.
My father could be funny… but he didn't try to be a comedian. He could be as serious as any of the other kids' dads. But one of the secret anxieties that I think we as fathers all struggle with as our kids grow-up is whether our children believe we’re funny.
We fathers know we can be useful to our families… our children need food, clothes, books and help with solving math problems that would stump a rocket scientist.
Now and then children even have questions for fathers that would baffle an Internet search engine. "How do you know if you like someone?" "Do pets go to heaven when they die?"
But fathers also want to know that their children find them fun… that the time they spend together is more than a chore or duty… but something that every now and then can make them laugh.
Who knows where in the world a father's joke and a child's smile might end up one day.