When laughter doesn’t work, crying usually does
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Sometimes it can be difficult for funny people to express loss and grief without making a joke of it. I’ve been known to do it. I don’t even expect my own dad to make it through a funeral without at least one zinger.
He’s a lot of fun at weddings, too.
Even with an above-average level of sarcasm constantly coursing through my veins, I have a hard time being witty when I’m grieving. I blame that on the guilt associated with being one of those “way-too-nice Midwesterners.”
Making light of life’s heavy realities, such as death, does not come naturally for me. I remember cringing at those awful Challenger jokes when I was an eighth-grader and wondering what could be so funny about an explosion that killed people. Then I grew up and went to high school.
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And I realized laughing is about the only way to deal sometimes.
There’s an old-fashioned part of me that can’t help but wear black at funerals and make a casserole when someone dies. I obviously come straight from a traditional set of dutiful women who stoically sat in mourning in a long black veil with the dearly departed. In another life, I probably remained in my darkened house filled with dying roses until the time was right to show my Vitamin D-starved face to the world.
I hope it was at least OK to curl up in the fetal position during this alone time. That’s about the only way I feel better when I cry.
As modern as I think I am, there’s an old soul inside of me who jumbles around this fast-moving, I’m-too-busy world channeled from my great-grandmother Mildred McAnany, may she rest in pink-hued peace. She never remarried after losing her husband in the 1920s to a tragic trolley accident in downtown Indianapolis. Raising three small children alone – giving birth to four but losing one at a very young age – she did not seek out a new mate to help her weather the storms of life. She did it all alone.
I imagine if I could speak with her today, Mildred would tell me that she could never find another man like Francis McAnany, with his chiseled jaw, debonair looks and great suits.
I picture him being sweet and funny, too.
I can only hope Mildred took the time to laugh as much as she cried in those challenging child-raising years. I imagine that was quite often, especially when her sons were off to war and she had a teenage daughter in the mix. Times were hard. And she probably had to be, too.
This one was all-woman, before they really started roaring.
Remembering my great-grandmother, and all the friends and loved ones I’ve said my goodbyes to in my 39 years, is front and center in my mind lately. This may come from living in a small valley, where I’ve known five people to leave the living from suicide this summer. I may or may not have been close to the departed, but they were dear to many people I love. So I feel that sadness and loss.
Couple this heartbreak with the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and it feels as if life doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Assume the fetal position.
This grief and confusion all came to a head on Sunday night as I was making some fettuccine alfredo in my kitchen, watching the Jets-Cowboys game. That’s when the “We will never forget” commercials started coming. Actually they had been coming all day, during regular football programming.
There was something about the kids singing “(New York) Empire State of Mind” to firefighters in that tear-jerking State Farm commercial, though, that struck me to the core. As the sun was slowly setting in the mountains – so far away from New York City – I realized we had made it through the 10th anniversary of 9/11 without a terrorist incident that was so feared. Once the sky turned dark on that fall Sunday evening, I suddenly felt the desperation of it all again.
I also felt safe.
I was happy to be alive in Colorado. But I also remembered where I was when the Twin Towers fell – don’t we all. On that intense day 10 years ago, I was on my way to a pre-Jimmy Buffett concert golf outing in Indiana. The afternoon was to be promptly followed by a whirlwind of jovial songs about pencil-thin mustaches, waterbeds and margaritas. Then reality hit.
And none of us were ever the same.
I’m not one to cry a whole heck of a lot – just ask my friends. I like to be tough and funny instead. But the moment hit me like the first time I heard Dave Matthews and Emmylou Harris sing “Long Black Veil,” the beautiful, heart-wrenching song Johnny Cash made famous. The tears started falling, wet and hard. I was alone in my kitchen, except for my 13-year-old dog Elwood and a pot of boiling pasta. There was definitely nothing funny about it.
And I realized crying is about the only way to deal sometimes.
April E. Clark will never forget. She can be reached at aprilelizabethclark@yahoo. com.
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“You have all demonstrated through your grit, perseverance and sheer determination to have weathered the storms that have come your way. And, goodness knows you have weathered the most unusual of storms to get to this very day…” — Yampah Mountain High School commencement speaker Diana Andrews