Penguins don’t fly, but they sure can climb.


(This is an excerpt from a speech I made at my dad’s memorial. )

As a kid I had a stuffed dog named Duffy. Duffy was one of those tattered, constant-companion stuffed friends. If Duffy were absent at bedtime, it was a crisis until he was located.

Duffy was often absent at bedtime, because my dad would hide him.

Of course, Dad always denied that fact adamantly.

“Duffy ran away” he’d say.
“Duffy is hiding.”
Or, most often: “Duffy got into the liquor cabinet again.” Dad couldn’t help it if Duffy had a drinking problem!

Years later, when I went to put a brand new stuffed penguin in Graham’s bed, I spontaneously decided to put the penguin up in the light fixture above the bed instead. I warned Graham, “Your new penguin is a climber. You need to keep a close eye on him.”
This began a marvelous game in which Graham would come home from school to find Gunther the penguin hanging from chandeliers, swinging on fans, or otherwise making elaborate mischief. Every day got more elaborate and more ridiculous.
A nest appeared in the corner of Graham’s room with eggs in it, and days later, the eggs hatched into a group of equally mischievous baby penguins. Alarmingly, the baby penguins were climbers too.
And every day, when Graham came home from school, he’d retrieve them, scold them, and give them long, stern lectures.

It wasn’t Dad’s fault that Duffy had a drinking problem. And it wasn’t my fault that Graham’s penguins were a rowdy, undisciplined lot. Sometimes these things just happen.