(Editor's note: Almost 16 years ago, Rutherford Weekly ran a column about an impending birth. Sarah Elliott Tisdale was pregnant with hers and her husband Andrew's first child and RW's Pat Jobe noted that the baby was about to be born to not only a great mom and dad, but two extraordinary granddaddies. Recently that baby, now almost 16-year-old Coleman Thomas Tisdale, sat with those two grandpas and talked about the importance of having fun in life. RW offers this story this week to encourage laughter in the face of the virus crisis.)
Mike Elliott's front porch was transformed in a historical meeting.
Or was it hysterical?
Almost 16-year-old Coleman Tisdale sat with his two grandfathers to remember almost falling out of a fishing boat.
"I think I might have been as young as three years old. I was wearing a Spiderman life jacket and a 20-pound red fish almost pulled me out of the boat," Coleman said. Granddaddy Tisdale added, "That boat captain thought it was pretty funny. That Spiderman suit, actually it was a whole outfit of a floatation device, and that little guy was hanging over the side of the boat saying, 'I think I got a big one.'"
The biggest catch is that Elliott and Tisdale have spent their lives finding laughter and fun as fuel for getting through. Coleman said he noticed. When he was asked if his grandpas are crazy in a good way, he said, "I'm always working with them. I can tell."
Elliott's daughter, Sarah, had the task of cleaning the Forest City Clubhouse. Mike went with her and the kids once to "help." Somehow in the process, the lights went out.
"I'm not sure exactly how those lights went out," Mike said because, "Their mother was guarding that light switch." A large trophy case sits against one wall. When the lights came back on, their grandpa's head was in the trophy case. "All three of them jumped on their mother's head," Mike remembered to peels of laughter on the porch.
Mischief, tomfoolery, cutting up, these are the tools of an approach to life that is not always serious.
Tisdale said, "I heard one time that God is serious. Life not so much."
Coleman said, "Poppy (his and his sibling's name for Tisdale) always told us if you don't feel enthusiastic, tell yourself to feel enthusiastic at least three times and pretty soon, you will start to feel it."
Mike said, "I've heard if God didn't have a sense of humor, he would not have made Cecil Geer."
The late Cecil Geer may have been among the funniest human beings to ever draw breath.
The story goes that he failed to make formation during summer camp for the N.C. National Guard. After a couple of mornings of his absence, his sergeant got right stern with him and told him he would either be there at 8 a.m. the next morning or he would face serious consequences. The next morning, sure enough, there he was in formation wearing his combat boots, his helmet and nothing else.
God clearly has a sense of humor.
Coleman, who has been recognized for citizenship and an all-round good guy attitude at East Rutherford High School and earlier in middle school, has apparently always been patient.
"One time we were fishing on the New River and what was supposed to be a three-hour trip turned into a 10-hour trip. I was getting pretty tired of it, but Coleman was so patient. Finally right toward the end he said, 'When are we gonna be done with this?'" Tisdale said.
"And Poppy decided to rock the boat," Coleman said, which caused a number of folks to end up in the river.
Mike remembered that Coleman "could use a hammer about as well as any," when he was five years old and he helped his grandpa build a treehouse in the backyard. "He asked me about a bucket of water balloons that were up in the treehouse. I told him no, those are monster bombs. I told him we keep those in case any monsters come around. I told them that I had to run in the house but came out the other side in a monster mask. They used the balloons to repel my attack and we still argue to this day if that was a real monster and not an old granddaddy. I think even Grammy might have gotten hit with one of those monster bombs."
Grammy was Mike's beloved wife who passed last year. Robyn Elliott had a stellar career as a public school teacher and friend of the human race. She and Tisdale's wife, Karen, have had many occasions to enjoy the foolishness of their husbands and grandchildren. Coleman has two younger siblings, Mary Grace and Elliott.
Elliott appears to be living up to Mike's love of mischief. He has been reprimanded for misbehavior at school. Mike picked him up from school one day and got the news of yet another walk on the wild side.
"I told him I was sorry he had gotten in trouble. He said, 'Oh, I don't mind. I'm used to it.'"
When it was suggested that maybe that story should be left out, Mike said, "He'll love it."
Coleman has been praised by many adults in his life as being a great conversationalist, but growing up among many Elliott and Tisdale kinfolks, Mike said, "It's a wonder he can talk at all."
Tisdale said he once took a personality test and was tested high as an otter. "An otter is somebody who likes to have fun and worries about the consequences later."
When Mike was asked the value of fun-loving, tomfoolery, he said, "It gives you a reason to get up in the morning; and sometimes it gives you a reason to hide."
Life is clearly not fair. Hard knocks come to all, but Tisdale emphasized that some people on the down side need understanding from kids like Coleman, Mary Grace, and Elliott. "You don't know what they've come from, how hard they've got it. You have so many people who love you and support you."
Tisdale hailed the value of good family and said, "We've been so blessed both upline and downline." Tisdale's father, who was a bedrock of Ellenboro, often waved with the American Sign Language for "I love you," which is index and pinky up, other two fingers down, and the thumb out. In one of the photos from Coleman's ultrasounds, he is giving his great grandfather's wave; and even more amazingly, there is an outline of the elder Tisdale's face in the photo. Tommy says one of his aunts recognized it, too.
In these challenging times, it is so gratifying to laugh, and see an unborn baby getting a prompt to wave from the other side.
Contact Pat Jobe at firstname.lastname@example.org.