People often ask for the secret behind my more than fifty years of marital bliss. While there are many important factors that have kept our love alive and ticking, I have to say that laughter is the glue that keeps it all together. My husband and I joke with one another all day, everyday. We enjoy humor from lighthearted to incredibly dark. We find something to laugh about everywhere that we go. It is our antidote for the realities of daily life that sometimes have the power to tear relationships apart. Sometimes we laugh so hard that our bellies move and our eyes water. Always we feel energized and ready to cope with whatever happens to be stressing us in the moment after the release of our anxieties into a round of good fun.
My husband, Mike, “checks” on his ninety-three year old father each day by scanning his email account for the daily jokes that his father sends without fail. When I hear a big guffaw coming from Mike I too am assured that our Papa is okay, at least for now. Sometimes I also run into the next room to find out what was so hilariously funny and the laughter begins again. We only worry if those jewels of humor do not come. It’s always a sign that something is amiss.
There are family jokes that we treasure for decades. Humor runs deep among our relations. One of my brothers is so masterful in his delivery of funny lines that he might well have had a career as a comedian. Much of his commentary is quite original and satirical. He has a gift that has kept all of us holding our sides with glee from the time he was quite young. It appears that his grandson has the same gift of making the ordinary exceptionally hilarious.
I too have a very funny grandson. On a cross country trip from Texas to California he kept us entertained with his stealth commentaries that made us lose our composure and laugh like hyenas. His gift is an ability to see the funny side of our human natures. Like most of the great comedians he selects his words carefully and uses his face to express just the right twinkle of the eye. He has an impishness that defines the masterful telling of jokes.
My students invariably uncovered the truth that I am a sucker for humor. They constantly tested my reserve with actions and remarks that caused my lips to quiver and my eyes to give away my delight in the jokes they snuck into my lessons. Ultimately they understood that I would eventually cave and let the truth of my joy emerge from my whole being. I suppose that sharing amusing moments together was the real glue that kept my students engaged in my lessons. It made me human and reachable rather than being some high and mighty mathematics guru armed with sometimes unnerving formulae.
The one form of humor that I despise is a weak effort to be mean and bully someone. If the official occasion is meant to be a roast of an individual who is in reality revered by the crowd, I have no problem. Those things can be absolutely hilarious as the performers jab at the individual who has willingly agreed to be honored in such a way. There is a long tradition of such humor in my own family with cousins and brothers lovingly and hilariously pointing out each others most joke worthy ways of interacting with the world. My unrelenting chattiness has long been the topic of family jokes as well as the moment when I accepted a dance with my very gallant cousin with the words,”better than nothing.”
Rather than feeling hurt or slighted by our inside jokes, we laugh with knowing joy. Unfortunately our tendency to roast one another for the purpose of keeping it real has not always been appreciated by folks who have married into the family. We have had to learn when it is safe to joke around and when such things cause hurt and hard feelings. Sadly many of our very best family satirists and comedians have died and we are in the hopes that some of our younger members gifted with humor will carry on the long tradition of laughing at life and its challenges.
One of the things I loved the most about President Barack Obama was his delight in the funny side of life, even when such moments were directed at him. I identified with his use of jest in sometimes dark and challenging moments. I too have used laughter to accompany through some of my most anxious times. I have been known to have doctors and nurses howling with delight just before I went under the influence of anesthesia before a surgery. Of course I was nervous, but I wanted to lighten my mood and theirs by bringing a bit of merriment into the room.
I mostly tend to be the audience for humor rather than the creator of jokes. I’d love to be the subject of a roast sometime. I’d ask my brother to be the master of ceremonies and I would invite a couple of my funniest friends as well as a few of my former students who made me laugh every time they entered my classroom. I have no doubt that they would find many ways to roast me alive and that I would be aching from chuckling so hard at their jabs.
I wish that everyone appreciated the value of really good humor. We grumble and cry and get angry a great deal these days when a bit of good old fashioned joking around would be good for us all. We still have lots of funny people in our midst and they know how to make us laugh only if we are willing to understand that they are commenting on our foibles in the good faith that we will be able to step back and smile at the ironies of life. I hope with all of my heart that we never become so stuffy that we shut down the funny men and women around us. I can’t think of any better way to solve many of our problems than with a good roasting of us all. It’s when we are able to laugh that we are most ready to come together., and we really do need to come together sooner rather than later.