This week has been rough. I say this and yet, looking back, we’ve had a spat of some really challenging weeks in this world of ours. We don’t need to talk about it. We’re all talked out, probably. I know I’m bordering on burnout. The struggle to educate over scold, to reach for compassion and empathy rather than frustration has been a real drain. It’s important, don’t get me wrong, but it’s taxing.
I’ve been thinking about humor in all of this mess. I’ve wanted to blog every day since Friday, but just…. couldn’t. I didn’t feel worthy, I guess. Or, truthfully, I think I worried that it would be disrespectful to write something aimed at humor in the midst of such crisis and turmoil.
Here’s a story for you.
My grandmother had Alzheimer’s. At the time of this story, she had gotten to the point where she’d walk up to random strangers at the craft store and talk to them about the tornado of 39. She’d eat three breakfasts because she’d forgot she’d already had one… and two. She’d get lost easily. She forgot instructions as soon as she received them. She often didn’t recognize me.
This was unbelievably hard. If you’ve never witnessed the grip of Alzheimer’s on a loved one, take it from me – it’s a real shit sandwich.
One day, my aunt and grandpa were painting the steps from the back porch to the back door. For as long as I can remember, these steps have been a vibrant green. My grandma was in the house, sewing or circling individual letters on her word search puzzles. My aunt had just finished the last coat of paint. She and my grandpa stood back to admire the steps. At that moment, a shadow appeared in the doorway. Grandma ignored their pleas and stepped out on to the very wet, very freshly painted top step.
“Don’t move! The paint is wet!”
But she did. My sweet grandma clopped down those steps and walked all the way across the concrete porch to stand next to my grandpa and face the house.
“What are you two looking at?” she asked.
As my mom tells it, they all just looked at each other. Then they looked at my grandma. Then they looked at the bright green footprints tracking across the porch.
Then, they laughed. Hard. Like, that belly-clutching, gasping kind of hard laughing. And my grandma, lucid for a moment, looked at the steps and then at the porch and then at her shoes, and she laughed too.
Alzheimer’s had taken so very much from my family. It had taken our joy and stolen our laughter. In the end, it took my grandma. I don’t remember my grandma laughing so much towards the end. I don’t really remember anyone laughing much towards the end. I regret this. I regret that we forgot how important it is to laugh.
For that brief moment, however, they laughed together. Even though I wasn’t there for this event, thinking of it makes me smile. Every.Single.Time. Had I been there, I would have been hiccuping right along.
Terror has taken so very much from us. It’s taken our joy and sense of safety and, given the swirling cesspool on social media lately, it’s taken our very common sense as well. Let’s not let it take our laughter, too.
As my dad says, “Don’t let the bastards win.”
Let’s keep laughing. Let’s keep looking at baby animals and instagramming pictures of our dinners. Let’s be kind to each other and consider how we can make room for everyone rather than how we can close the door. Let’s keep searching for the helpers, as Mr. Rogers said, and never stop looking at all the beauty all around us to be happy, as Anne Frank wrote.
In doing so, we will remain and we will rise. If I learned anything from my childhood, it’s that rising is a hell of a lot easier if you’re laughing.
What made you laugh this week?