There's this man see, and he's sitting in his library, in an armchair, wearing his 24/7/365 blue suit pants and button-down shirt. His legs are crossed, and he's filling in just the A's and E's in the New York Times crossword puzzle, smoking a Lincoln-head pipe. He takes the pipe out of his mouth and turns it to see Lincoln's bearded face. "Why did they give Powell and Herold passage over that Maryland bridge after stabbing Seward?"
And off we go through the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations, the Lindberg kidnapping, Roswell, and the death of Vince Foster. The Lindbergh kidnapping---we, his generals, re-enacted that one summer day when he was working on the roof. We got the ladder, put it up to the window: "How did Hauptmann get out with the baby and leave the note? Can't be done!"
There's this man, see, and he's sitting at his desk, gluing together a secretary for his daughter's dollhouse, while she sits in the closet she made into a home, enjoying pink cupcakes and coloring books for Richard Nixon's National Closet Day. Every once in a while he visits the closet, winks, and shows his progress on the secretary. A few kids stop by, and they want their pay from the man: five cents for wearing white paint on their nose all day. He pays up and everyone leaves with a smile.
Everyone always left every conversation with the man with a smile. Even cashiers when he would hand him his dollars and say "careful, it's still wet." Even waitresses when he'd ask for a "doggy bottle." Even the surgeon who fixed his heart plumbing when he read his "Bob Regan, Patient" nametag on surgery day.
There's this man see, and it's Thursday and he's come to watch his tiny granddaughter for a few hours. He takes delight in every move she makes, documents every smile, every turn, every look with his video camera. He shows her all the old movies: 42nd Street, Singin' in the Rain, and Eleanor Powell's endless dancing in Honolulu. Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby---the sounds of a time more innocent, kinder, slower fill the house. He leaves lollipops and cookies behind, and takes his lemon pie as pay.
There's this man, see, and he knows all the words to every Gilbert and Sullivan song, every line of the Rubaiyat. We listen to "Peter and the Wolf" for Christmas, dissect Robert Browning poems for school assignments, and compare the characters of "Magnum P.I." to Winnie the Pooh. His discovery is true: they match up.
At holiday dinners, mom said Grace to God---and this man replied Grace to Roosevelt and Truman. Then we heard the jokes, all those wonderful jokes that we'd heard before. He knew he'd told them already---but it wasn't the punch lines he was after; it was the telling.
On Wednesday morning, we didn't just lose this man---a husband, our father, grandfather, uncle, the head of our family, a `rock' as my mom called him. We lost an era.
Audrey went on to say more about growing up with him.