Humor has always gotten me through the rough spots in life, those times when you honestly don’t know if you can force yourself to put one foot in front of the other one more time. I’m not talking just physically speaking, but rather the times that you aren’t even sure if you want to draw your next breath.
One of those times was when my son died. It honestly felt as though it was wrong for the sun to shine, for me to move, for me to continue to BREATH. It was literally like my whole world had come to an end. I don’t even remember most of those first weeks after his death, but one thing I do remember is that my son’s sense of humor and fun bled through even through his eulogy.
I laughed during my own son’s funeral as a family friend who had been his sensei at the kung fu dojo where he had trained for several years gave the eulogy. He mentioned a time when they had been discussing martial arts in general and sumo wrestlers had come up and he related how my son had wistfully said he wanted to be one when he grew up, “because they can eat all they want.”
I laughed, I could see him saying that just as clear as if he was standing in front of me. It was so very much a part of my son’s character that he would think and talk like that, and humor was a big thing with him, learning how jokes worked and what was really funny…and what wasn’t.
Humor has always been important in my life. Without it, I couldn’t survive the things I have survived. I’ll admit, I’ve had some tough times, and things rarely have gone my way sometimes. But that’s okay, because even in those tough times, I still had my natural optimism and humor.
I can remember one time, I was talking with my best friend and mentioned that I always got up a couple of hours early in the morning before work. She asked me why, and I answered her with total sincerity and seriousness.
“I get up early to have some quiet time,” I told her.
She looked at me for a moment without saying a word, then she spoke, “Gia, you live alone…”
It was only then that I realized that despite the fact that my son had died, my daughter was grown and had moved out, and I had been divorced for months…I still kept up with a habit that I’d had since my daughter was a baby. I got up early so I had “me” time. I hadn’t realized that I still ACTED like a mom, even though I no longer had a child at home. I still got antsy at 3 pm, as though I had to go get my son at the bus stop.
At first, I sounded a bit rusty, but as it boiled up from inside of me and the tears began to flow as it just rolled out for the longest time. I hadn’t been laughing much, and I hadn’t been laughing for a long time. It was over due, and this time, the butt of the joke was my unconscious behavior. I laughed until I cried, and then I laughed some more. With that laughter, I got the strength to heal, to figure out who I was now, and who I was going to be.
Laughter and humor, and finding humor in our daily routines–it’s essential and it helps define who we are.
Years ago, when I was fresh and young and still believed in the world around me, I worked as a waitress in a dinky little restaurant where the tips were awful. The town was just as dinky back then, and it was the only restaurant located right on the highway through town. Several regulars were senior citizens that came in nearly every day for their evening meal.
There were two old women, both in their 80s, white haired and widowed and living alone. One was named Woody, and she wore bright red lipstick to really show off the smile on her face. She smiled a lot, always told me a joke or two, and they were always cute and clean as a whistle. I loved waiting on her, and everyone in town loved her. She still drove herself, and we’d all keep an eye out for her just in case she would toodle along excessively slow or stop unexpectedly.
The second was a woman that I don’t recall her name. She was mean and sour and nasty. Nobody liked her, and neighborhood kids tormented her unmercifully with practical jokes and petty vandalism. She had even shot the chief of police’s kids with a pellet gun loaded with rock salt. Kids knew, if their ball landed in her yard, it was a lost cause, as few were willing to risk the sting of her pellet gun to retrieve it. Instead, they’d resort to petty annoyance and aggravation in retaliation for her keeping their balls locked up. She’d often cuss and swear at people, and continually voiced complaints that her kids never visited her, nor her grandkids, and how the town kids always were doing things to her. She couldn’t pay anyone enough to get them to run errands for her either, as no one was willing to have to put up with her for a few dollars.
I was 18 way back then. I could choose which woman I wanted to be in my twilight years, and which woman do you think I chose?
I remember Woody, and her cheerful smile and cute little jokes. I liked waiting on her then, and part of me wishes I could have sat down and really talked to her for a while.
The other woman’s name has been lost in my memory, and I hated seeing her pull her car into the parking lot. She’d normally park wrong, taking up 2 or 3 parking slots, and then come stomping in, looking for a fight to be served along with her dinner. I didn’t care if she tipped me more than I’d made all day, I still was dreading having to walk to her table. She’d make insulting remarks, and everyone was just expected to accept it from her.
I’m getting older now, and have officially joined the ranks of grandmothers around the world. Those twilight years aren’t way off in the distance anymore, but looming ever closer. It’s time for me to take lessons from the elders that I was exposed to when I was young.
I remember the bitter and sour and mean ones. Nobody wanted to see them, nobody came to visit, and they’d gripe and complain about that along with everything else. I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want to drive away the people I love the most simply because I’m bitter about the hand life has dealt me. I’d rather skip the bitter, thank you very much!
The ones with humor and kindness and optimism were the ones that everyone loved to be around. They were the ones with the smiles too. Their family came to visit them, their friends enjoyed their company, their neighbors liked them. That’s what I want in my twilight years too.
So pass me the humor, maybe a dash of salt, a little chili powder, and a spoonful of sugar with it. Skip the bitter, slap on a smile, and guess what?
Life looks a lot better!