Friday, September 14, 2012

Inappropriate Laughter

"If we couldn't laugh we'd all go insane." --- Robert Frost & Jimmy Buffett

I will start at the end of the week, with the death of my husband's uncle. He was hospitalized shortly after he and his wife celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a surprise vow renewal ceremony. They never had a proper wedding, because his aunt became pregnant at 17 and his grandmother had to sneak the young couple over the state line for a secret rendezvous with a justice of the peace. My husband's mother, then just a teen herself, played the piano during the nuptials.

So they got married, had a son, and then Uncle lost a testicle.  I know this because when I met my future husband's grandfather, this was the first thing he said to me. After the shock wore off, I realized this was his way of welcoming me to the family. That story still makes us all laugh until we cry.

There is nothing better, in my opinion, than a full-body, completely-in-tears, mouth-open-without-sound, snorting, laugh fest. You can't force it or plan it, but it is such a gift when it comes.

I had one of those moments this week. My company put on a conference, with a former US Surgeon General as the keynote speaker, which required me to work around the clock, getting signs and booklets and last minute emergencies handled, asking printers to do the impossible and then finding out they would be happy to if only their machine hadn't just broken.  Fingers crossed they'd find the right part to fix it (smiley face)!

Once the conference was up and running, the staff was required to be downtown at 7:00 a.m. This was utter hell for me. Waking up at 5:30 a.m. was like coming out of an alien cocoon to discover I had been turned into a zombie. By 4:00 that afternoon, my co-workers and I were coasting on fumes. As we gathered at the registration table and waited for the last workshop to end, we regaled each other with stories:

Me: "This lady from the "majorgovernmentorganization" sat on the snack table for the session I moderated, and when she tried to get down she fell flat on her face and then ran out of the room."
     Giggle giggle!
Co-worker G: "I fell once in middle school - my backpack was so big I went down face first and it went over my head.  And no one helped me up.  I just laid there for a really long time."
     Ha ha ha!
Co-worker B: "I remember being so embarrassed when I was talking to a boy while walking out from lunch and he didn't tell me there was a wall and I hit my face and my teeth fell out.  And we were so poor I couldn't get new teeth for 5 years."
     Um, heh heh, well, ok.
Co-worker D: "You know B, that's not an embarrassing story."
Co-worker B: "It's not?"
Co-worker D: "No.  You always tell these stories that you think are funny, but they are actually sad."
Co-worker B: "Well, what about the time that my twin and I got in a fist fight with a girl for calling us bastards, and then our momma broke it up and asked us why we were fighting and we had to ask her what bastard was. And she said it's someone who doesn't have a father.  And then we said, but we don't!  That's funny, right?"
All Of Us: "No, it's very, very sad."

And it went from there.  We laughed about Debbie Downer, we guffawed about Co-worker J who wanted to go to the hotel bar to pick up an aging doctor from the oncology conference (she likes old men's butts that form a little triangle) and we became completely unhinged when the photographer we hired stopped by to say hi and Co-worker J was so worked up she started unconsciously stroking the camera lens which hung at his waist.

We were delirious - tired, stressed, overworked, underpaid, and desperate for relief.  Tears rolled down our cheeks and some of us might have wet our pants. It hurt so good.

At the wake this weekend, I hope my husband and his uncle's family and friends can find those moments - when the pain and grief give way to the joy of good times remembered.  And maybe a chuckle or two.

Until next time, keep crowin' and laughin'!  And God bless the memory of Uncle Tom.

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