Recently, a close friend of mine told me that I had to stop writing such somber
and grim posts. What that did, in fact, was lead me to wonder if I had actually been converted to a somber and grim person. Can you change affiliations that easily? I certainly would not have said so a couple of years ago. Now, I wonder.
I love to laugh. I love the laugh-until-your-eyes-run and you stand in a pretzel twist to avoid having an accident. (Almost any woman over fifty with several children can attest to this form of laughter – as can any observant male, for that matter). I like to laugh at things that may not always be funny to everyone else. Thank heavens my children get my humor or what a befuddled mess our lives might have been. My dearest friends, those new to the fold, and those who helped build the fold, have seen my laughter roll out of me at the least provocation. And, what’s more, we can get ourselves worked up to rollicking hilarity by reliving whatever the precipitating factor had been, simply by remembering it years later. We also seem to forget what started us on our laughing fit in the first place. That, alone, can leave us gasping for air.
Thanksgiving offered a discussion that could never be transcribed in such a way that it could deliver the same comic effect as it did when my three children were batting around an idea casually, as if playing catch. We did laugh. It became raucous laughter when my son, in a style I can only describe as Billy Crystalesque, wrote a clever little jingle to further advance the topic into our Thanksgiving hilarity. Their father was puzzled, then frustrated, and finally (I surmised) angry because, admittedly, the theme under scrutiny — which was death -- was probably not common fare for conversation during Thanksgiving dinner. But after all, even the Baird had quite a lot to say about death, and comically at that. Laughter prevailed at our Thanksgiving table. While some may have found it maudlin or ghoulish to shine a light of comedy on death, why not? The more we fear something, the more power it holds over us. There are times my daughters and son seem fearless as they navigate through their lives. I admire that. I also respect that they seem to understand that death is the other side of the coin of life and to find humor in unexpected places is not necessarily bizarre, but liberating.
The last couple of years have been unusually trying. My plans and dreams seemed to have taken a detour I least expected. However, I feel like I have been bringing my humor with me as I recalibrate my life. An example comes to mind immediately. A few years ago, when I was in Spaulding Rehab (after two hip replacements), I felt a keen kinship with one of my nurses in particular. Her, name, Amanda Darling, seemed remarkably fitting for a young woman who was as kind as she was smart. Amanda had the ability to take a moment that may have seemed distressing and even agonizing to make a small joke or offer a quick smile. She was the nurse that found me upon admittance with a pair of ice-water soaked underpants on my head. (An aside: the ambulance crew pretty much dropped me off on the transport from Newton-Wellesley Hospital to Spaulding. I am not sure if they actually stopped the ambulance. I was beyond miserable. I could do nothing about my hip or my back, but my head! It was my MacGyver-like solution at the time to slide my hand into the bedside table drawer so I wouldn’t have to move any part of me. I pulled out whatever I felt first, dropped whatever it was into the ice water on my tray, squeezed it out, then placed it on my head. I realized that by adjusting the cloth just so, the damnable light was dimmed).
It was under these conditions that I heard a sweet empathetic voice, “So, I hear you have a little headache,” she said. The ambulance drive and drug schedule had resulted in one of the worst migraines of my life. It hurt too much to vomit. I was sure I had entered some kind of hell. But Amanda, with her gentle gibe, almost made me laugh. She handed me a little white cup filled with pills and down they went. They even stayed down. She came back in about twenty minutes and I let her take my underpants away to dry. I still laugh at the image. The ability to find humor in the unexpected is, perhaps the key to survival. My parents advice to me about longevity in a marriage had always been patience, forgiveness, and, of most importance, humor.
Quite frankly, I do not think I could have weathered some of life’s recent trials
without mystery books, hot baths, large cups of peppermint tea, vistas of ocean against canvases of sky, unwavering friends holding my hand, my children, chocolate, and, of course, humor as a tool in my toolkit .