The Farmer's Wife: We all need to find opportunities to laugh


Well, at least the volleyball team keeps winning, right? And it's time for high school playoffs, so that will give me something to keep track of this week.

As I said, I'm rereading some books from my shelf.  I actually gave away most of my Erma Bombeck books, knowing I would probably not read them again because the fun stuff about keeping house and raising kids is all behind me.  

I do find it interesting that she and Phil Donahue actually lived in the same housing development in Dayton, Ohio. What are the chances? Phil also spoke at her memorial service. I kept one big book that has three of her best, and another with her best columns.  

Then, I got out The Courage to Laugh, by Allen Klein. I actually participated in a workshop by him in Norfolk once. Allen is a funny guy in a low tempo way. He usually makes you chuckle instead of good belly laughs, but they are equally stress relieving.

The chapters in this book are divided by subject; for instance, humor and hospice. You think there is no humor in hospice? Well, there is, and I've been a participant in it at times. My favorite quote is “there is nothing so sad or so traumatic that we can't find humor in it.” And, often, humor helps us get through the crisis.  

In the chapter on Cancer and Comedy, the two “C” words, he makes an important point. He calls it the Circle Theory. Those experiencing a life-challenging adversity, like cancer or disability, or who are in high-stress jobs, like nurses, firefighters, EMTs, have a common bond. Therefore, they can laugh about things even when the situation itself is not laughable. These folks are in the circle.

The Big Farmer used to say nurses tell the most macabre jokes, and he was right. But it only happens with other nurses. We have our own circle. So, a cancer patient attending a support group may laugh about some humorous incident within the group, but when they try to explain why they are laughing to someone outside the group, it's not funny.

A woman being treated for cancer made numerous trips to the hospital and one day, in an emergency room, her regular doctor wasn't on call and she had a different physician. She says he barged in, was very cold and very sterile, looked at her chart and announced she had a very low blood pressure for someone as large as she was! She responded by asking, “Did you know the number one predictor of a malpractice suit is a poor bedside manner?”  (And it is.)  The nurse had to leave the room because she could not stop laughing.

And, when he gets to children and cancer, he quotes Erma! Erma went to a cancer camp for kids and wrote a book about it. As we all would, she expected it to be a sad experience. But she found children, especially, could find the funny in their experiences. She says if you can't handle optimism, don't go around children with cancer.

If they have one leg, they will jump into a puddle of water. If the pass a mirror reflecting a bald head, they will stick their tongue out. And if you put 'em in a wheelchair, they'll find another to race.

We all should be as children and find more opportunities to laugh. And I have only scratched the surface of things Allen Klein writes about. I need to finish the book!


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