Humor is useful weapon in fight with tribulations

This article was originally published in North County News.

I laughed. Really laughed. It’d been a long time since I’d allowed humor to rise above the weight of 9/11 and its aftermath. And it felt good.

Flipping between Leno and Letterman, I was surprised how my mind welcomed their initial attempts at humor. Tentative with their delivery, both struggled to find balance between comedy and compassion.

Both sought that ever-elusive level of comfort with “appropriate” comments.

As their confidence grew, so did my amusement. As my snickers chuckled and my chuckles chortled, laughter found its way to my heart again, and it did feel good.

It reminded me of the laughter lesson learned a couple of years ago during a visit from my parents. After three years of paralysis, I had finally purchased a customized mini-van. With the flick of a switch, the floor lowered six inches and a ramp unfolded to the ground. Hand controls gave the driver the option of using hands or feet to drive. Although not a driver yet, I was transported in the van routinely.

During that visit, we braved a trip to the mall. I entered the van, parked my wheelchair and put on the shoulder strap. I had decided not to bother with the straps that anchor my wheels to the floor. The belts were cumbersome and difficult to maneuver. I opted to use the handle on the back of the passenger seat to stabilize myself. No different, I reasoned, than passengers on a bus, hanging onto the rails.

Dad climbed into the driver seat while Mom and I chatted as I put lotion on my chapped hands.

“Are we ready?” Dad asked.

Before we could answer, the van lurched forward, jolting everyone backwards. I lunged for the seat handle, but my lotioned hands slipped. I flipped on my back. My lifeless legs sprawled above me leaving me staring at the ceiling, turtle-style.

Then Mom looked at me and began to shake. She quickly turned away, but the shaking continued.

“Mom?” I called.

She turned to look at me.

“You’re laughing,” I cried.

Then Dad joined in.

I looked at Dad through my airborne legs and the hilarity of the situation struck me, too.

Then I laughed.

Tears soon followed.

“What did you do to make the van start off like that?” I asked Dad as Mom began to regain her composure.

“Well, I thought I’d check out these hand-controls,” he replied. “I’d say they are a little sensitive.”

I tell that story to every new driver of my van. Everyone cracks up, but no one ever forgets to ask me if I am ready before putting it in gear.

I’ve reflected on my mother’s laughter, realizing I inherited that tickle-box button. I have been grateful for it through the years.

Humor is a wonderful life-long companion. Humor can give perspective. Twist reality into amusement. Lighten heavy discussions with a shift of wit. Merge diversities with comedic connection.

There is a talent in being humorous as well as seeing the humorous. Although Mom cannot tell a joke, she can laugh. She “gets” jokes, seeing the humor as well as feeling the humor. She has a unique way of letting it overtake her senses; in this van adventure, she used it flawlessly.

We often let grief, pain and fear overcome us. As we struggle to develop our post-9/11 patterns of “appropriate” living, we may need to remember to let laughter overcome us as well.