Who among us doesn’t love a good laugh? And there is research that laugher really is the best medicine. It is one of the most therapeutic things around- it can lower your blood pressure, improve your mood, and doesn’t cost a thing. And it can help patients heal from illness or deal with chronic conditions. The humor- health connection came to prominence in the late 70’s with the publication of the book, Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient, by journalist Norman Cousins. In this best selling book, he recounted watching Marx Brothers movies and reading humorous books to help him cope with a debilitating illness. He discovered that “a good belly laugh” could lead to much lower pain for up to two hours. Taking Mr. Cousins’ advice to heart, I will recount three personal examples of laughter providing some much needed relief, even if done at the wrong time.
My first example involved a ukalele, an elderly relative, and a musical performance. It was not, of course, intended to be funny, but I thought it was hilarious. Some background is in order- my maternal grandmother, Joyce, was number ten out of eleven children. With that many offspring, there was a large age difference between her and some of her older sisters. One of them, Annie, had married Joe Casey and moved to South Dakota, where she had a large family of her own. Annie missed her family a great deal, and needed help with her children, so my grandmother was sent to live with her for a year to help. I guess when you have eleven kids, it isn’t unusual to farm one out for awhile. But Joyce was very good natured and helpful, so off she went. Even though Joyce eventually had a large number of nieces and nephews, she maintained a close relationship with the Caseys for the rest of her life.
My mom also got to know the Caseys quite well, and over the years they would come to visit, usually one at a time but sometimes in a group. One group visit occurred when I was about ten years old. We were all invited to a dinner at a relative’s house, and there were a lot of people in attendance. I had received my usual instructions that “children should be seen, and not heard”. (See my first blog post for a refresher on my ability to disrupt events, like a church service https://funnynana.com/2020/11/12/before-i-was-a-nana-i-was-pretty-funny/ ).
I did well that evening until one of the Casey cousins, a woman in her sixties, pulled out her ukalele and started to play. I was ok with the playing, but then she started to sing. It wasn’t really singing, more of a warble. This all seemed perfectly normal to the adults, but not to me. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stifle the laughter, especially when she tried to hit a high note. And she had quite a repertoire of songs, so there were a lot of high notes. After some dagger like stares from my mom, I excused myself to an upstairs bedroom until the “concert” was over. But I had to avoid eye contact with the performer for the rest of the night or I would start laughing again.
Laughter Incident Number Two happened at an annual social event held by the college where I worked. It was designed to honor students, and they were introduced to the audience during a formal dinner. As each student came forward, the emcee read a reflection that they had written. Several of the students being honored this particular evening were visiting our college as foreign exchange students. One of the exchange student’s introduction mentioned how much she loved all of the cafeteria food, and then listed each thing she liked- in great detail. Then it said her favorite thing to read was a student published newsletter called The Toilet Paper, which was posted every week in, you guessed it, the stalls in the bathrooms. I was laughing with the food list, but completely lost it when The Toilet Paper was mentioned. Once again, this lead to me excusing myself from the room.
Incident Number Three happened at work, in one of our seemingly endless meetings. It wasn’t as jovial as the photo above, but that is the best one I could find in the Pexels free photo bank. One of my colleagues, who was a wise and funny woman, had coined a name for our small school based on a tv show. Instead of The Little House on the Prairie, she jokingly called our institution of higher learning The Little College on the Prairie. She saved this nickname for meetings that went on too long, or when strange policy decisions were announced. It struck most faculty as being pretty funny, and the nickname stuck.
The only problem with it was that the powers that be decided it had taken on a negative connotation, so she was asked not to use it anymore. Being a team player, she didn’t say it out loud, and neither did anyone else to avoid getting in trouble. But as many people react to censorship, she got more creative in her use of it. She shortened it to LCOP ( not all the initial letters, but close enough). We all knew what she meant. And even though she didn’t utter the words, she would occasionally sit next to me at meetings, and just for fun, write LCOP on my agenda. Several times. This was fun because it was the forbidden fruit of faculty humor, and it always made me laugh. She was also a master at analyzing other people’s motivations and abilities. If a colleague was taking exception to some minor thing, or asking endless questions, she would smile and say “That’s her gift”. Either one of these could send me into fits of laughter that I had a hard time containing. But it was all in good fun, and the LCOP moniker lives on for a few faculty who remember it.
My inopportune laughing has decreased quite a bit since I’ve retired, but I still find humor in many situations. This is a good thing since I have taken up writing a blog focused on the funny side of life. I hope your days are filled with some laughter as often as possible, because it really is the best medicine!