A famous comedian once said, “Tragedy plus time equals comedy.” For the most part, I believe that’s true, though there are several tragedies I can think of that no amount of time can render funny. Still, we sometimes find ways to laugh at things or situations we never thought possible.
Since I was a child, I’ve believed it’s important to find humor wherever you can. I learned that from my mother. She didn’t have much of a filter. If she thought something was funny it usually came out of her mouth. She loved to tell stories and, by the number of people around her at parties, it was obvious people loved to hear them. Sometimes you shook your head and laughed, sometimes you just laughed. But you always walked away with a smile on your face.
My mother would have loved my grandson Matthew because they’re cut from the same cloth, as is Matthew’s mother, my oldest daughter. You think it, you say it, you deal with the reactions. So you see, the apple really doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Must be a genetic thing.
For the first few weeks after we found out about Matthew’s lymphoma, we didn’t laugh very much as a family, and if we did we felt guilty. We put on happy faces in front of him but that was all smoke and mirrors. Reality was still sinking in and we were still trying to get our arms around this thing, do what we had to do and understand how to do it. Lots of information to digest, decisions to make and things to do.
But something happened along the way. Laughter crept in. Slowly at first, and then a little more. The thing about laughter is that it makes you feel normal again, at a time when nothing felt close to normal. It heals in ways medicine can’t and it becomes infectious. The more you allow laughter into your life, the more life you seem to have. It’s part of the process.
Last week Matthew was in the hospital for four days. Following his treatments, his white blood cell count dropped to nothing, he developed sores in his mouth, an infection that he needed antibiotics for and a transfusion. These are all side effects to the chemo. For a few days he looked terrible. His cheeks were swollen from the sores, he couldn’t eat or get out of bed, his hair was falling out quickly and he barely smiled. But as his white blood cell count began to rise, his sores began improving, the transfusion kicked in and his smile slowly came back.
On his last day in the hospital before they released him, we were sitting around talking to him and realized he looked like Marlon Brando in The Godfather, with his puffy cheeks. So we took out our cell phones, and asked him to repeat a few lines from the movie. As you might expect, he was only too happy to oblige. Still a bit out of it, with some sores in his mouth and his cheeks puffed up, we video taped him say, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” He not only repeated the line, he did it with attitude. Of course we didn’t stop there. We recorded other lines, including the famous, “Leave the gun, take the cannoli’s.” He laughed as he watched them back and we laughed as we watched him watch it. I still view those videos every day and laugh out loud when I do.
This past week, his hair was falling out quickly so he wanted to get it buzzed because it was annoying him. Of course we told him girls think guys with bald heads are sexy and I think that intrigued him, even though he shook his head and covered his eyes at that statement. We did a face time with him a day or two later and told him the haircut looked good. Then I asked him if they gave him a free comb with the cut, in case he needed to fix his hair when he went out. He laughed and shook his head.
And we laughed with him.