My father always had a joke to tell and a story and advice to go along with it if you were willing to listen. Sometimes, even if you weren't. His advice was usually from a perspective you either hadn't heard before or didn't expect from him. Either way, it did behoove you to listen.
I remember once he said that he and Jesus were jokesters, but there was always a message under the stories. He said, "You wanna know when Jesus really wanted His disciples to pay close attention to His stories? Well, He would say 'verily, verily I say unto you.' And notice how He said 'verily' twice." Then he laughed that laugh my father was famous for. That laugh that I will never forget. That laugh that knew sometimes he was casting his pearls before the swine. But he would cast them anyway, not believing in swine. Believing that we are all swine or none of us.
"Verily, verily" he said unto me, that "if you wanna stay outta trouble, don't go to the ocean." Then the laugh again. Truncated, inebriated, but still. The laugh. I was in Georgia and he was in California and I could see him through the phone sitting on his chair closest to the TV, right by the window. I could feel him winding up the gears to his story like the best storytellers. Like Richard Pryor, James Baldwin, like Jesus. "A shark always get a bad rap" he said. Then a pause, for nothing. Or maybe for the sip of something. "You aint never gon wake up in the middle of the night and see a shark standing above yo' bed. You aint never gon walk 'cross a dark parkin' lot an' be scared that a shark might be following you. In fact, the onlyist time a shark can git you, is if you git in the ocean where the shark already live."
And such is the trick of life. Knowing your ocean. "One man's ocean" he said "always different from the next man's." If you are addicted to drugs then the crack house is your ocean and the dealer your shark. If you are a shopaholic, then you don't need to live next to a mall. You don't wanna get eaten by a shark? Stay out of your ocean.
It's true what they say about cherishing every moment. That was the last story he told me (from this side). A week later, he was gone. As if anyone is ever gone. But I have his stories. I have the memory of his laughter. I have is smile. His voice in my head. My father will never be gone.