As a kid I grew up hearing, what is now considered extremely politically incorrect today, “Pollock jokes”. Even the term is wrong, but back then, being of Polish decent, it seemed okay. No, it wasn’t even okay back then, but I was a kid and it didn’t fully register in my mind.
From my Dad’s side of the family you could say that I’ve got 50% Polish ancestry in me. According to my relatives, my Grandfather moved her from Poland with his wife, my Grandmother. So that would make my Dad full Polish, though he was born in the US. And in turn, that makes me half Polish, or so you could say. More on that in some other article….
My Dad had a slew of these types of jokes at the ready. He even had some props. With my last name, it made it so easy. And despite knowing it was wrong, both then and now, these inappropriate jokes gave me an incredible gift. Perhaps you can call it thick skin, but I prefer saying, ‘these little jokes and inappropriate things being said around me, gave me the ability to laugh at myself’.
This is a memory post, one of those moments in life that I can look back on and remember some moment in my life. However, once I typed out the joke that I recalled so vividly, I realized that many people would probably take it the wrong way, and rightfully so. Instead, I started to question why the jokes he’d spout off weren’t considered bad to me, but a fond memory. That’s when I discovered, in his own way, my Dad gave me something I didn’t fully recognize … until just now.
My Dad passed away when I was eighteen. He smoke and drank way to much, it wasn’t until I was in my mid twenties that I discovered my Dad was illiterate. He couldn’t read or write anything but numbers. My Mom and he had a system where she helped him get through exams, manuals, and other things. She admitted to me that when I was a baby, she’d go to the mill he worked at to read the manuals for the machines he worked on so he could learn to use them. An odd, but pretty romantic thing to do for someone in your life.
My Dad was also funny, though the alcohol made him a funny drunk, which then turned to a sad drunk, he could always laugh at things even when he was sober. The jokes about his Polish ancestry was just one more way he could poke fun at himself and with that, perhaps for him this was what some call self-defeating, it allowed me to learn to laugh at myself. Not to take things to harshly and to let some things slide right off my shoulders.
I can look back at these awful jokes and my Dad happily rambling yet another one off, which, yes, it may have just been his coping mechanism, but they are filled with happiness for me. It was that happiness and his jolliness he had as he passed on the latest joke — usually directed at himself — to make everyone laugh. I honestly don’t think he thought of himself as being the punch line, I think he felt he was able to take the bullet as it didn’t offend or bother him, it simply made others laugh. And that, is sometimes, some of the best medicine people need when they are fighting their own demons.