THAT FUNNY DAD O' MINE
One Father Shows The Importance of Laughing Out Loud
"Hello," said the man to the waitress. "I'm Brad Pitt."
"Nice to meet you, Brad," answered the waitress as she giggled at the man who clearly was not Brad Pitt. "What kind of dressing would you like on your salad?"
This is a typical conversation starter between my father, Bill, and practically anyone he meets. It's not that he thinks he looks like Brad Pitt, George Clooney or any other Hollywood hunk. What he really wants to do is to make people laugh.
Telling a good joke and making people laugh is a skill that he's practiced for years. One of his favorite jokes is: "A burglar broke into my house last night and all he stole was the TV remote control. All night long, he kept driving by the house and changing the channels."
As soon as he meets someone, he turns on the switch in his brain that sifts through the thousands of jokes stored in his memory. If he can get people to laugh, or even smile, at one of his jokes, he knows that it will make them feel better. And it lifts his spirits as well.
Like most 80-year-olds, assorted health issues (in his case, diabetes, high blood pressure, epilepsy, blindness and more), have permanently altered his life. Although these health problems are a constant, he maintains a sense of humor to see him through the challenges. His caregiving needs are made easier when administered with a large dose of laughter. After all, researchers have found that a good laugh benefits the heart, stress levels, immune system and more.
The truth is that my father simply cannot not tell a joke. It's in his DNA. He has a bottomless treasure chest of classic puns, snappy one-liners and clever monologues that he has "borrowed" from comedians he admires. Like this quip from Ellen DeGeneres: "My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was 65. She's 72 now, and we don't know where she is."
As one of his five children, I'm a member of his in-house audience. An average conversation with my father is like having a one-on-one performance with Letterman, Leno or Stewart. My brother, sisters and I still laugh at the jokes he's told us countless times-such as, "Do you think that when they asked George Washington for identification, he just took out a quarter?" (this from Steven Wright).
New England blizzards. Job losses. Plumbing disasters. Health issues. He has taught all of his children that having a sense of humor is the best cure to ease the discomfort of life's hiccups.
Once I had a very straight-laced boss who criticized me for laughing at work too often. He had no idea that I took his comment as a compliment. After all, I learned to laugh at life from my father. What better gift could he give me?
—By Maryanne Curran, a writer in Lexington, Massachusetts, who has previously contributed to Caring Today.