Sunday, March 9, 2014

Laughing Through Tears

I remember when my dad was dying; my family and I were just about all there at Christmas time.  He only had a few weeks to live.  While we all were terribly sad, in the depths of despair really, we continued to make each other laugh.  I know it sounds weird, but we did.  He was in on it too. 

There was this card game at the dining room table.  He was there with that silly Irish grin on his face, wearing this frumpy looking Irish hat with a floppy brim.  We poked fun at each other, and outdid each other’s jokes, one-upping to the point of hysteria. 

Next to him, attached with an intravenous tube, was a cart with fluids dripping constantly into his arm.

One of the last nights I ever saw him, we watched a funny movie together.  “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” with John Candy and Steve Martin.  My big brother Pat was snoozing loudly in my dad’s easy chair – where my father would have normally been, but he was in bed.  I lay on the floor next to him, close enough to hear every laugh and snigger. 

We lost ourselves to the silly movie.  We laughed more than we would have in other circumstances I think.  We needed to laugh.  We needed normal right then.  Reality came crashing back in soon after.  But those laughs were so right, so real, just what the doctor should have ordered.

When my mom was languishing at my sister Ruthie’s in New Mexico a couple years ago, we played a word game together, just a few nights before she passed on.  And we laughed until our faces hurt.  All of us did.  And when she was too weak to walk to the dinner table we wheeled her in a desk chair for her last few meals.  And at those dinners we laughed.  It’s not like we avoided the inevitable.  We just laughed because that what we do.  And we needed those laughs, for those moments of levity helped us to endure the sadness that was upon us.  The grief that lie ahead.

Today I read Leonard Pitts latest piece in the Miami Herald.  I’ll put a link here so you can read the whole thing.  In it he talked of comic Laurie Kilmartin who tweeted all these funny bits as her dad lay dying in a hospital bed next to her.  So I checked our her tweets.  And they are hilarious.  And I cried like a baby. 

I’ll copy a few. 

Good luck getting an answer to the question, "Did I give you too much morphine?"

And yet, life goes on. Mom just began a sentence (whose 2nd half we all ignored) with her fav clause, "I don't mean to be critical, but..."

"OH LOOK HE'S FINALLY SLEEPING," my mom says, waking him up.

Heads up, new followers. After my Dad passes on, I'm going on a dick joke cleanse.

Mom just told Dad, "I love you, hon" while stepping on and cutting off his oxygen supply. This is their marriage in a nutshell.

More unfortunate phrasing. Mom to Dad, re: the reclining hospice bed, "Should we put you down?"

Unnamed family FARTER thinks Dad's flowers and lavender will cover her tracks. Despicable.

Three visitors in a row left Dad's bedside in tears. Pussies.

HAPPENING NOW: Dad doesn't like the way I hold the glass of water to his mouth; I don't like the way he spills the water all over himself.

Mom just told me to put on a bra because the priest will be here in 5 minutes.

The priest is an hour late. I'm going to beat his knuckles with a ruler.

Told Dad it is an honor to tend to his needs these final days. Told mom to invest in long term care.

Fear my Dad will die if I leave his bedside, fear my mother will die if I don't.* *I might murder her.

Pretending to Dad right now that I believe in the afterlife. But I think he knows I'm lying and appreciates my effort. We're cool like that.

This pain my Dad is in I would totally wish on my worst enemy.

After Dad took his last breath, I looked up. Either I gave Dad's soul a final heartfelt message, or the ceiling now thinks that I love it.

After he passed, Mom laid next to his body and gave him one final, "Ron, make these girls stop being mean to me."

Some people think that we may laugh in stressful situations because of adrenaline - some kind of pre-flight or fight situation. Or we laugh to change our stress into an artificial euphoria or to mask our emotions. It seems to me that we laugh to embrace our emotions. Laughing is just so human. When it's my time to check out, I want people around to help me to find the humor in the situation. I want to watch a funny movie, read a funny book, listen to some good jokes. I want to poke fun and riff on people and one-up jokes until they become ridiculous. I want people to riff on me. I want to laugh and smile until my face hurts. Does that sound weird?

A day after her dad died, Laurie Kilmartin tweeted "Do they fact check obits? I want to say my dad played bass for the Stones."

At the end of the Leonard Pitts piece he wrote, "Yes, sometimes things hurt too much for laughing. But sometimes they hurt too much not to." I am not going to have a tomb stone. But if I did... that would be a pretty cool epitaph.


Nic E said...

Wonderful post, and just what I needed to read. Thank you. :)

Unknown said...

Awesome, in every way!