The following blog isn’t for everyone. My family has a strange sense of humor when it comes to tragedies. The reason I know this is I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of forced, polite smiles from people who don’t see anything funny about death or dying. I also know this because my husband, my “dip-stick” testing paper with regard to my level of appropriateness, is not amused at all by our “dark” humor. He uses “body language” to communicate his disapproval and I’ll see him shifting like he’s got a rash, looking the other way, rolling his eyes, and even walking away when witness to one of our irreverent discussions. If the subject matter herein makes you uncomfortable, read one of my other blogs—the one about my near-neurotic fear of rodent feces, my underwear… or the one about my farts.
The way my family gets through tragedy, death, fear, all those, is to laugh. We imagine the Grim Reaper…in his underwear…. with a “wedgie.”
My mother died of a brain tumor. In her eulogy, my brother reminded us of what she said when the doctor was talking to us about a necessary biopsy to determine a treatment. The surgeon was mid-sentence describing the operation when my Mom interrupted him and said, “You’ve got a blackhead on your nose—you should squeeze it, it’s really gross.” I recall when she said that, I felt like a cartoon character we’ve all seen, in a state of shock, whose jaw drops. I ran over what just happened for a couple of seconds, stone still. Then I blasted loud, waves of laughter. I can still picture the doctor’s face—totally worth my rudeness.
My father died of connective tissue cancer. As they were wheeling him into surgery, my father, a scholar and lover of good grammar, was correcting the nurse’s English and advising her of the proper way to say something.
“They might not give him any anesthesia if he keeps THAT up.” My brother and I said.
In the waiting room during Dad’s surgery, my brother Jeff, his wife Kat, my two sons and I passed the time, unconsciously finding ways to relieve the stress and worry. A pre-surgery discussion with his doctor described the tumor in terms of its size, relative to something else---a Basketball. It's the size of a basketball, right?? We were making up these scenarios about when they get it out, the doctor will “slam dunk" it. Maybe he’ll spin it on his finger. Later, when we were in a post-op conference room, there was a chalkboard. Now we were joking about John Madden, and how the doctor would come in and chalk his offense against the “Raging Tumors” team. More laughing, the kids laughing…stress--evaporating.
With custody of both parents’ cre-mains, my brother and I decided to place them somewhere very meaningful to them. On a hot July afternoon, we each took a bag of ashes, and simultaneously dumped them into a hole we had dug. Not accounting for the speed at which the ashes were falling, the immediate result was a giant “David & Dolores Cloud” rapidly rising up into our faces. Screaming, we both dropped the bags and took off running. This is still a source of amusement.
My husband was/is appalled.
Years ago, it was thought my son Jon had a Transient Tic Syndrome. With this arbitrary, peculiar diagnosis, we had to take him to a neurologist regularly. We were always changing insurances and by the third or so doctor, Jon (then about 8) had made up a little dance he called, “The Neurological Exam” to the song, “Let’s Groove Tonight.” He would karate chop his knee for the reflex test. Then, arms outstretched at either side, tap his nose with his index finger alternately and to the beat. In each examining room from then on, we’d be jovial, filled with fun as opposed to apprehension.
Gotta love that kid.
The seed is planted for another generation of “Laugh in the Face of Tragedy-ists.” I am well satisfied. I’ll want them to be able to deal with adversity with the same power-over that the rest of my family has. What else can you do?