My father-in-law, Raymond Coppage, had emergency surgery late Tuesday evening. He's 78 years old, a retired (60+ years) Southern Baptist pastor, and lives in Vero Beach, Florida. He made it through surgery without complications and is recovering in the local hospital there.
While his physical condition isn't funny, the situation brought a couple of things to mind:
A) we promised each other years ago that, in the event that one of us died, and the other was still living, the living one would speak at the dead one's funeral. I am convinced this will enable him to outlive me by at least five or six days, long enough for my viewing, wake, going-away party, and funeral.
2) he has been an accessory to my attempted murder on at least three occasions.
I had been married for less than a month the first time Jennie's family tried to kill me. My sweetheart and I went to her grandparents' home in Quitman, Georgia, to visit, and the first night we were there we went to her uncle's house for supper. We had fish. I love fish. I grew up on channel cats and bream. I'd had red snapper, drum, shark, and king mackerel. I love fish.
That night we had mullet.
Now, anytime a fish is named after a bad haircut or vice versa, it should throw up a red flag. Instead, I just threw up.
About midnight, I got this awful feeling that precipitates puking my guts out. I'd felt it before, but usually I was at the end of a bad night or the beginning of a very bad morning. Jennie had never been with me when I was nauseated, so this would be an adventure for her.
I am not quiet when I vomit. My philosophy is "the louder I am, the quicker I'll finish." Not to be gross (too late), but vomiting can only be made worse by one thing: diarrhea. Fortunately, I had both.
So as I sat on the throne, turning inside out, my new bride was trying to "help". She stood behind me, her loving hand on my shoulder. Here's the conversation.
Her: "Honey, unnn...unnn...unnNN".
Me: "Go back to bed. I can't clean up after both of us."
Right then I learned that she can't help anyone who's throwing up. Without throwing up on them.
I'd eaten supper before. I'd eaten fish before. The only thing I hadn't done was eat fish for supper with my in-laws.
The second attempt on my life occurred while I was fishing with my father-in-law in Lake Okeechobee. Not on the lake--in the lake. There had been a drought in south Florida, and we were taking advantage of the lake level being down to slaughter some bream and crappie. I had a stringer hooked to my beltloop and was sliding fish down it as fast as I could catch them. Raymond had a similar setup, and we were wading through the waist-deep water several yards apart. I kept feeling something brush up against my leg and told him so. He told me it was a turtle.
It was an alligator, which I'm sure Raymond had hired just for this occasion. He was eating the fish off my stringer as an appetizer before having my left leg for lunch.
When I saw the fish on my stringer were gone, save a lone fish head, I told him I was through fishing for the day and walked on top of the water back to the truck, where I waited for him to finish so we could go home and I could change my pants.
The last time he tried to kill me was on Blue Cypress Lake, also in south Florida. You'd have thought that I would have known better than to go fishing with him again, but you'd be wrong, wouldn't you?
It was raining. We were coming back across the lake, headed for the boat ramp. Raymond was driving, his son Ray was bailing water out of the back of the boat, and I was sitting on the bow from where I had been fishing. I am not making this up. All of a sudden, Raymond whipped the boat around and we headed back towards where we had just come from. Why? Ray's hat flew off and went into the water. I'm sure it must have cost at least $3.
I held on for dear life. If you've ever ridden on the bow of a speedboat (I wouldn't recommend it) then you know what's up there to hold on to. Nothing. I managed to turn around, get up on my knees, and grab the top of the windshield. I swear I saw a creepy smile cross my father-in-law's face. Maybe he was happy I'd almost fell off. Or maybe it was indigestion.
Obviously I survived. As did Raymond after his surgery. He's a man of faith, trusting God with his life, and that carried him through.
Or maybe he was thinking about attempt number four.
UPDATE: My son Carder reminded me about the time I was visiting my in-laws and, after having put some jelly on my toast, I licked the spoon before replacing in in the jar. This is NOT a capital offense in the State of Florida. Therefore, the attempts on my life are not considered justifiable homicide. However, in Georgia, if you lick the spoon and put it back before you offer to share it with your cousin, he/she is completely within state law to kill you. Unless you're married to her.