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Inever heard my father tell a joke. Sometimes he reminisced about a business colleague who ordered a “Scotch and Coke” and a “flander” fillet in a Dallas diner in July, and he could smile at his own embarrassments, his impolitic remarks at the office and his foolish mistakes on home-improvement projects, but there wasn’t a silly bone in his body. He responded to other people’s jokes with a wince or a grimace. As a boy, I told him a story I’d made up about a trash-hauling company cited for “fragrant violations.” He shook his head, stone-faced, and said, “Not plausible.”

In another archetypal “Peanuts” strip, Violet and Patty are abusing Charlie Brown in vicious stereo: “go on home! we don’t want you around here!” As he trudges away with his eyes on the ground, Violet remarks, “It’s a strange thing about Charlie Brown. You almost never see him laugh.”

My father only ever wanted not to be a child anymore. His parents were a pair of nineteenth-century Scandinavians caught up in a Hobbesian struggle to prevail in the cheap cs go skins swamps of north-central Minnesota. His popular, charismatic older brother drowned in a hunting accident when he was still a young man. His nutty and pretty and spoiled younger sister had an only daughter who died in a one-car accident when she was twenty-two. My father’s parents also died in a one-car accident, but only after regaling him with prohibitions, demands, and criticisms for fifty years. He never said a harsh word about them. He never said a nice word, either.

The few childhood stories he told were about his dog, Spider, and his gang of friends in the invitingly named little town, Palisade, that his father and uncles had constructed among the swamps. The local high school was eight miles from Palisade. To attend, my father lived in a boarding house for buy csgo keys a year and later commuted in his father’s Model A. He was a social cipher, invisible after school. The most popular girl in his class, Romelle Erickson, was expected to be the valedictorian, and the school’s “social crowd” was “shocked,” my father told me many times, when it turned out that “the country boy,” “Earl Who,” had claimed the title.

When he registered at the University of Minnesota, in 1933, his father went with him and announced, at the head of the registration line, “He’s going to be a civil engineer.” For the rest of his life, my father was restless. He was studying philosophy at night school when he met my mother, and it took her four years to persuade him to have children. In his thirties, he agonized about whether to study medicine; in his forties, he was offered a partnership in a contracting firm which he almost dared to accept; in his fifties and sixties, he admonished me not to waste my life working for a corporation. In the end, though, he spent fifty years doing exactly what his father had told him to do.

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