MEMORIAL: Paul Kaser 1909-1996
My father,Paul Kaser, died twenty years ago today. A Memorial is supposed to be a solemn affair, bordered in black. But that is not who my father was.
This is who my father was. He told stories. Especially shaggy dog stories. This is my free form version of one of my favorites.
“There once was an island far away in the South Pacific. The King of the Island lived in a grass shack like all of his subjects. But his grass shack was bigger and grander. His grass shack had three stories, a separate room for sleeping and another for eating, a breezeway, a patio, windows looking out on the surf and a double door made of pieces of driftwood.
“Being a king, of course, he had to have a throne. When he first became king of the island, he had a modest stool which served as a throne, since everyone else sat on the ground. But after a year, he thought he should have a more impressive throne, so he stored the stool in the third floor of his grass shack, and had a wooden chair built from pieces of a shipwreck. The chair seemed quite grand to him until one day he visited another island. That king sat on a chair that had arms and a high back. It was much more impressive than the island king’s plain chair. So when he went home, he commissioned a new chair with arms and a high back and he stored his old chair in the third floor of his grass shack.
“For a year or so, he felt quite grand, but then a tourist happened upon the island with a magazine that showed a throne in a far off country. It was carved ornately and decorated with precious jewels. Of course nothing would do but that the island king have a more ornate throne. He commissioned his finest craftsmen to build a new throne with carving of dolphins and waves. Since there were no precious jewels on the island, he asked them to inlay colorful seashells in the wood. He stored his previous throne (the one with arms and a high back) in the second floor of his grass shack, since the third floor was getting rather crowded.
“Of course by now you can guess what happened in another year. A shipwrecked sailor staggered ashore carrying a wireless set. The king, who by now had learned a bit of English from visitors, listened to the stories on the radio and heard the description of a throne that had a high back, and carved arms, was covered with jewels but also had rare and wonderful fabrics covering the seat and the back. He had to have a throne like that. Buying fabric from a passing ship, his craftsmen built the new throne and stored the old throne that was decorated with seashells in the second floor of the grass shack.
“The King proudly sat down on the soft fabric and leaned back on the carved wood frame. But as the craftsmen left the grass shack palace, a wind came up, the building swayed, and it came crashing down on the king seated on his throne and killed him.
“The moral: People who live in grass shacks should not stow thrones.”
Can’t believe you have been gone for twenty years, Daddy. Because you are still in my heart and my mind. And you still make me laugh.