This morning, at the breakfast table, as I was perusing the comics, (which, along with the Sudoku, is how I ease my way into each day), I was hit by a wave of nostalgia at the sight of "Hagar the Horrible" returning home from one of his wild adventures, to be greeted by his valiant wife, "Helga." "
"Did I ever tell you about the evening I spent with Hagar's parents?" I asked my husband.
"Hagar had parents?" Don asked in obvious bewilderment. "I thought he was just a cartoon."
So, I told him the story.
In their later years, my father and stepmother lived in a retirement complex in Sarasota, Florida, and one time when I visited them I happened to remark that I thought "Hagar" was the funniest comic strip ever. My father responded, "Well it just so happens that Dik Browne, the creater of 'Hagar,' is a good friend of ours. He and his wife Joan live less than a mile away. Would you like us to invite them over for cocktails so you can meet them?"
Of course, I was thrilled, and come cocktail hour, I was standing at the window, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the funniest man in the world. My first sight of the Brownes is one I will never forget. Here came this silly little moped, putt-putting up the street, with a plump little woman (who looked a bit like "Helga") driving it and, jogging along beside her was a jolly man with a white beard who looked a lot like Santa Claus. He had one hand on her handle bars and was carrying an oxygen tank, and they were laughing uproariously at something one of them had said.
Joan Browne was in the final stages of emphysema, and Dik Browne was virtually blind.
We enjoyed each other so much that they stayed on for dinner, and Dik later sent me an original of one of his comic strips, autographed to "Lois Duncan, one of my favorite people."
Whenever I start feeling sorry for myself for any reason, I remember that marvelous couple and give myself a good swift mental kick in the pants. Halt leading the blind? Not so! In this case it was two strong people, looking out for each other and sharing whatever life handed them with grace and with laughter.
Their artist son, Chris Browne, has kept that comic strip going, and it's almost as popular today as it was back then. But, I like to believe that Dik keeps his hand on Chris's shoulder as he works and that Joan is laughing with both of them.
Causes Lois Duncan Supports
Operation Smile and Hospice