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Remembering Dad: He Loved Trivia, But Not Trivial Pursuit

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The most difficult speech I ever gave was Dad’s eulogy. He told me he wanted me to do it shortly after learning he had cancer on the night the funeral director came over so he could get his and Mom’s arrangements out of the way. He wanted it to be light, and he wanted it to be about him.

Many of the people in attendance were people that grew up in our neighborhood who were my and my siblings’ close friends.

From the lectern, I asked "How many people here remember how much he loved trivia?" A lot of hands went up, including all of the people who were our childhood friends.

"Okay, hold one finger up," was my instruction.

It brought out some laughter because that was a game he would often play with all of us around the dining room table.

Dad loved playing this game with us, and a common source of the trivia was whatever we were studying in school. It then had the added benefit of making sure we knew what our teachers were trying to teach us. It was his creative way of helping us with homework without watching over our shoulder to make certain we were learning what we were being taught.

It wasn’t always schoolwork trivia, though. It also wasn’t always serious. To wit: he might ask "If I had six candy bars, and you asked me for two of them, how many would I have left?" The answer "four" might be followed with "No, I would have six because I am not giving up any of my candy bars." The next time he asked it, and someone, say Kathy, was wise enough to say "six," he might follow that up with "No, I would have three because I would give you one, Janice one, and Cindy one."

I do not know for certain what our friends might remember most about Dad, but it would be a good bet that it would be playing his trivia game at the dining room table.

The game Trivial Pursuit came out when I was a young man, and Laura bought it for me as a gift. The first place I took it was to Dad’s house. I knew he would love it since he loved trivia so much, and I, too, had acquired a love for it from him. This would be fun for both of us!

We were in his garage. We didn’t set up the game, but, rather, just pulled cards and took turns asking and answering questions.

He thought I was trying to pull one over on him when he asked me "Who was the shortest President?" Of course, that was James Madison, which I knew because of all topics in trivia, Presidential trivia is one of my favorites.

With a suspicious and serious look in his eyes, he said, "Okay, then answer this one. Who painted Starry Starry Night?"

I almost didn’t want to answer Vincent van Gogh, but I did.

He returned the card to the box and told me he didn’t want to play any longer since I had studied all the cards for the answers. I tried explaining to him that the only reason I knew that answer was because Don McLean’s song about the artist, Vincent, includes the lyrics "Starry, Starry Night."

He wasn’t buying it.

He would continue to play his trivia game with us for the rest of his life, but he never again played Trivial Pursuit.

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