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.”