Ten years ago today, my father-in-law Fred Blahut died of COPD, and not a day goes by when I am not reminded of him. I first met Fred in late 1985, when I started dating his daughter Joni. Shortly after we announced our engagement, Fred lamented to me:
Joni’s the nice one, and you’re going to take her from me.
If I were a good person, I wouldn’t have to go to church.
Fred, of course, had his faults (a short temper and a sharp tongue being two of them), but when I think of him, it’s usually for the numerous witticisms he often said. Some he made up, some were from old TV shows, radio programs, movies, and Mad, back when it was a comic and not a magazine. He’d drop these little sayings every so often in appropriate circumstances. Like:
I know why no one wipes the table without being asked. Because if they do, they will go straight to hell.
If you go any slower, you will back up into last Tuesday.
I refuse to be defeated by a fornicating inanimate object.
(When dealing with an obstinate part while performing a home- or car repair)
(Said whenever would stand on the invisible “X” in front of the TV, blocking his view)
Your mother and I tried to sell you children to the gypsies, but they wanted too much money.
I believe I’ll have another vodka martini.
Take this dish into the kitchen ANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNND come back.
There is a utensil on the floor…
Yes, you’re the big dog. Yes, you are. And you, you are the bat-eared piranha puppy.
(Spoken respectively to Angus, the big black Lab; and Ajax, the little dog who was fond of nipping one’s fingers when given a treat)
You can’t understand American literature without reading Moby Dick. Moby Dick is terribly significant. Terribly boring, but terribly significant.
Other people have ordinary grandchildren. And I feel sorry for them.
No! Noooooo! Fuckbrain! No!
Your mother and I are going to Cleveland.
A born-again turkey is still a turkey.
You buy ’em books and buy ’em books and all they do is eat the covers.
“The only thing we have to fear is…dormant gookum.”
If I had wanted you to act like an asshole, I would have said, “[name], act like an asshole.” But I didn’t say, “[name], act like an asshole.” So, [name], don’t act like an asshole.
You shall know the truth, and it shall give you a migraine.
No good deed goes unpunished.
“Pluck your magic twanger, Froggy! AUUUUGHH!!! You fool! Not MY magic twanger!”
No, this isn’t freaky and creepy at all…
What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his tripod?
“You’re getting weaker and weaker, Captain Tootsie, because you can’t eat Tootsie Rolls.”
(delivered at high volume, usually when said dog was underfoot or otherwise being a PITA)
“College student Beamish Frobin/Studied so much his head exploded…”
(from an original poem)
Look, it’s Yog-Ken-ton, Lord of Chaos…
Well, hello, “Various” and “Sundry…”
Don’t say “what?” when you KNOW “what!”
Alligator pit! Alligator pit!
(Exclaimed whenever someone lost all their money on Jeopardy. When this happened, Fred always hoped a pit would open under said contestant, dropping them into a pit of hungry alligators)
“I want a ‘Q,’ Pat!”
(Exclaimed during viewings of Wheel of Fortune. Alas, rarely did a contestant ask for a “Q”)
“Hey, sailor–new in town?”
Jump through this…
(Said while making the “OK” sign with the thumb and forefinger touching. = “screw you”)
I don’t think I want to know.
Not if you know what’s good for you….
“If you’re good, I’ll give you the top off my egg!”
(In high-pitched voice): “I don’t want any…”
(regular voice): “There’s a smart kid.”
As an homage to Fred, I cribbed two of his sayings and gave them to Thad Anerson, the “dragontamer” in my novel Dragontamer’s Daughters. Those sayings are:
“Honest to good God…”
(an expression of exasperation), and
“I’ll tell the world.”
(analogous to “no kidding” or “believe it”).
* * *
A word about this last one. At certain gatherings of the large and rambunctious Blahut family (Fred had five daughters and one son, most of them close in age), Fred would lead a toast with a bit of dialogue from an old movie. This toast was done at Thanksgiving, at Christmas, and especially at weddings, with Fred pausing so that the rest of the family could bellow their line. No explanation was ever given to bewildered guests, because there is no explanation: it’s just a bit the Blahuts did together, and the tradition has continued.
The toast goes like…well, maybe I’ll let Fred himself do it. This was recorded in Pittsburgh (Fred’s home town) in October 2003, a few months before he died. Fred was too ill to travel to the party that Joni and I were having to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary, so this is what Fred said:
We remember you, too, Fred. And we miss you. Still.