Laugh into the Darkness

July 18th, 2012 § 5 Comments

I got my Dad to laugh once. It was the one and only time I got him to laugh. It was thrilling. So thrilling, that that moment is etched in my mind. We were driving somewhere close to my Uncle’s shop near Alvarado and 8th. A warm, sunny afternoon. It had to have been summer. We were headed west with the late afternoon sun flooding the car with that dreamy glow. My parents were talking about my Uncle’s new home which came with a built in sauna room. Both my Dad and his younger brother were slight of build. I commented from the backseat that if my Uncle spent any time in his sauna, he’d pass out. My Dad busted up – his face in a wrinkled scrunch. Bearing all his teeth, he did this rapid hissing laugh. The whole car: my Mom, my Bro, me, we all broke into laughter – the rest of us, I think more in wonder at my Father’s laugh than at my comment.

My Father seldom laughed. He rarely smiled. What’s so funny anyway? Like I mentioned in an earlier post Old Photo, by the time I came around, my Father had seen a few things. Life has a way of crushing a man. It doesn’t have to be particularly tragic. We all see loss, experience uncertainty, unmet expectations. It seems nothing of worth is gained without a fight. A struggle. And right when you’re trying to concentrate on the fight, there’s that background drone of meaninglessness. “Is this it?” Then there’s death. A couple years after that fleeting moment of sunlight, my Father went into surgery for kidney stones and came out with cancer. After beating him up for two years, that cancer killed him.

A couple years ago, one of my kids mimicked my expression. “This is Dad.” And did a serious scowl.
“Really, that’s how I look?”
“I don’t smile much, huh?”
“No.” (All three of them in unison)

You know what I’ve wondered since? I have to overcome. It is a father’s job to laugh into the darkness. “Hah! That ain’t nothing. Let’s go kids. It’s going to be okay. And with a little work, it can really be beautiful.”



§ 5 Responses to Laugh into the Darkness

  • There are a couple of great examples of this in “Batman Begins.” (I’m rewatching getting ready for #3.) Both young Wayne’s father and his mentors (Alfred and the weapons guy) all keep laughing in the face of real failures. Bruce’s father encourages his son not to be afraid even as he himself lays dying. Yes, I think it is our job to tread a new path, not the old “hero” way of never a doubt, but the more realistic, difficult way of hoping against hope.

    • Q says:

      True. There’s a great scene in Apocalypto. Early on, a father right before getting killed looks at his son and tells him not to fear. Like the father in “Batman Begins”, in the moment in which he’d be justified in caring about himself above all others, he care for his frightened son allows for abandonment. Freedom. Overall, a gnarly movie, but I’ll not forget that scene.

  • TW says:

    This is a good word, Q.

    Well said. Heavy.

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