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By Keith Blaney

It was getting near the end, just a few weeks before he died, and my dad was in his hospital bed, totally drugged up on morphine. My mom was where moms should be at a time like that, right by his side.

Then, there was a knock at the door.

A tall man, who my mother described as a "Holy Roller" poked his head inside my dad's hospital room. Now, when I hear "Holy Roller," I picture some sort of colorful singing monk doing handsprings down a hallway. But that's just me.

"Excuse me, Ma'am? Would you mind if my friends and I came in and prayed over the patient for a while?"

"…prayed over the patient for a while?"

See, my mom wasn't against the odd prayer from time to time. She even had two sisters who were nuns, and a brother who was an actual Franciscan Brother - brother. She knew the drill. She could pray with the best of them.

But something wasn't right.

So, clutching an outdated copy of People Magazine for strength, and being as diplomatic as only a mother can be, she smiled and replied, "Uh, no. Thank you very much. I'm sorry. Uh, but, he's resting."

Then, without warning, my father woke up, from his Rip Van Winkle coma, for the first time in weeks, and slurred, "Come on in. Come on in."

And "Come on in" they did.

The Holy Roller, who my mother had described as the "Head Honcho Holy Roller," entered the room with five devoted teenage followers.

"Ladies and gentlemen, The Hospital is proud to present, live, at your death, SIX TEENAGE CHRISTIANS."

My mother was defeated.

My father smiled in a way that he would have described as a "shit-eating grin." He looked as if he'd won some sort of "grand prize."

The Six Teenage Christians circled the bed, joined hands, and began to pray over my father.

Now, at first you gotta think, "Hey, this is pretty nice. These are mighty giving Christians." And, they were.

But it was the day before Halloween, and all six of the mighty giving Christians were dressed as giant Crayola crayons.

Giant. Crayola. Crayons.

One of the crayons was praying in tongues.


My mother stood, mouth wide-open, staring at a scene being played out in front of her that no nun in any saint-named-school, anywhere, could have prepared her for, ever.

Throughout this "session," my father sat straight up, for the first time in weeks, and laughed and laughed, and enjoyed every stupid second of it.

Drugs or no drugs, no matter what the situation, Frank Blaney knew how to appreciate a good laugh.

Hours after this moment in time happened, my mother relayed this story to me over the phone a thousand miles away. Whether they are the right words or not, I'm usually not at a loss for them. That time, I was at a loss.

All I could picture, all I could see, were…crayons -- all these crayons. All the crayons from when I was in grade school, from the big Crayola box of 64, with the cool-ass sharpener in the back.

But he saw the colors. All the colors. The old colors. The more exotic ones. The ones from far off places with names like "Burnt Umber" and "Fawn." And the ever-ambiguous first cousins "Violet-Blue, and Blue-Violet."

You see, he saw the colors, man. The colors! All the colors, spinning, in a Jimi Hendrix, Mellow Yellow, Timothy Leary, Lyndon Johnson, Green Tambourine, Purple Fucking Haze, man.

And he never stopped laughing.

My mother said that when the Six Teenage Christian Crayons finally finished praying, "OMINA-AMEN" -- when they began to leave, my father could be heard pleading, and waving after them, "Come on back. Come back again."

He wasn't stupid.

How often do you get a fucking Giant Christian Crayon Floor Show praying in tongues over your body while you're dying, and your wife has to watch?

Not that fucking often.

After that, my mother and I agreed that there was no rhyme or reason to this world. I will have to remember that more often, when I can't change the things that I can't change -- which is a lot.

When my mother told me this on the phone, after a load of silence all I could think to ask her was, "What color were they? The crayons?"

She told me that she really hadn't thought about it, but that they were blue and yellow.

Blue and yellow? Blue and yellow? Are you fucking kidding me? Blue and yellow? I'm gonna go ahead and say, "Robin's Egg," and "Daffodil." I think that sounds better.

My dad knew how to appreciate a good laugh, even when he was dying. That's how he was. We should all be so lucky.


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