Monday, September 05, 2005

#73 - A Little Nitrous, Please?

I had no idea I needed to laugh.

Yesterday was actually a pretty fair Sabbath, as Sundays go. Nice day at Church; lots of good thoughts about the flood victims and suggestions for how to help; kids were able to be with friends in Primary; Daddy got to do some Family History consulting during second hour. No rush in the morning, either. I was up at a reasonable hour, and had the Woodyettes' church clothes picked out by the time Mrs. Woody was done with her morning routine. Everyone was showered, bathed, dressed, and otherwise ready to go well before our usual departure time, and it was nice.

On the other hand, there was work to be done. We were expecting company for today and the house is... um... well, you know. I was spending time in the Woodyettes' dungeon trying to get things better organized, and failing miserably. It truly is a case where a bulldozer would be more efficient, if I could just figure out a way to get it into the house.

After dinner, Mrs. Woody announced that she wanted a movie. She didn't say so, but the clear implication was that my attendance was required. The girls were ensconced in their CalTrans pit with a movie of their own, and we settled down to "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." We enjoy "Greek Wedding" because it requires only minimal editing and hits all our funny bones. By the end of the movie we were both pretty relaxed and I was able to go back into the Den of Condemnation to continue with the reorganization exercise in futility.

It was my wife's parting line as I announced my departure for the Crusades. I mentioned that I always enjoy that particular movie (I probably always say this), and Mrs. Woody rejoined, "Me, too. But I needed to hear you laugh."

Oh? Had my laughter been so absent of late?

As interesting as this question was, I didn't pursue it. Some things require no real explanation. Mrs. Woody has always told me that she loves to hear me laugh. I have taken that to mean that my laughter has a sort of tonic effect on her. It must be a signal that things are right with the world in general. Sure, there is suffering and misery elsewhere, and we are and will do our part to help. But in our immediate world, things are well. And when Daddy laughs, things couldn't really be any better.

I can appreciate that feeling. In my childhood, if Dad was laughing, no one was in trouble. There were five of us kids, and someone was always in trouble. Except for the Baby. The Baby was never in trouble. (She denies this. She contends that we had all left the house by the time she got into trouble, but we don't believe her.) The bottom line was: if Dad wasn't growling at someone, it was a good day. If Dad was laughing, we all laughed with him.

As I sat in the Pit of Woody's Despair sorting through about a kazillion Kelly Doll accessories, I pondered the significance of Daddy's laughter. My native sense of humor is my strongest personality attribute. When I was a punk kid, it manifested itself as biting sarcasm; a trait I haven't completely left behind, you may have noticed. But as I have aged (or, like a good sausage, cured) I have realized that my sense of humor can be a tremendous disarmer. I have the ability to defuse tense situations by finding a way to reveal some small element of humor.

If that's true, then I do my family and loved ones a disservice when I fail to laugh for them. Let's face it, laughter is generally infectious. It always was for me when my Dad laughed. Now, granted, that may partly have been out of relief that I wasn't about to be executed for yet another lousy report card. But when Dad laughed, I nearly always laughed with him.

When I laugh, my Woodyettes can be themselves and have fun. They can be silly without annoying Daddy. When I don't feel like laughing, their silliness can act like a hot poker inside my head. I might snap and raise my voice. Then everyone - Mrs. Woody included - is on edge. What fun is that?

I had no idea I needed to laugh. But I know it now.

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