Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Laugh

My Laugh.

I may not have been supposed to hear it: “I miss his laugh.”

I’d heard it before, but I didn’t know I was the subject laugher. Now that I think of it, I probably didn’t know what a subject was, or who was talking, or what state we were in. I just knew: I heard that before.

Also, I remember it distracting me in an off-beat way. It brought to mind my father, back in March of 1985, years ago, which still doesn’t seem that way. It was now 11or 13 hours into a three-hour coronary bypass operation. I deduced, brilliant son that I am, that the procedure was headed straight south, and my mother and I were about to lose a very, very good man.

I was 39, he, 69. We were as close as we were not demonstrative about it. I couldn’t imagine life without him, and now I had to.

I have been through just enough, now, that I am not surprised at what pops into my mind on such occasions, and I take care not to let anybody else know. It’s like noticing the crooked nails in a wall under demolition, and sympathizing with the agony of their discovery, after all those years. There they are, naked, supporting nothing.

It’s lunacy, I know. First of all—first, probably through tenth—it’s insane. Nails, especially, old, used nails, don’t get embarrassed. I think, for me, the distraction takes the edge off the destruction.

When my father died, I found myself saying, out of earshot of anyone, “God. I’m going miss his cough.” Now, who would think of that? But nobody else had that cough. You could hear it; pick it out of a hero cop’s funeral, anywhere. The whole world was going to live, forever, without that telltale cough.

Strange thought, I know, but, it helped.

He died. He’d done all the things he wanted, and—I knew more than anybody else—he was escaping the things he didn’t want; dependency, incontinence, blithering, and, mostly, being alive without my mother. At the time, I didn’t know he wanted to escape blithering, but I didn’t know exactly what blithering was, either. Now, I know. And I know that it would have been high up on his list of stages-of-decline, declined.

“Thanks, but I would prefer to skip over that blithering, if you…or…You don’t mind.”

I was right about the cough, too. I still miss it, twenty-five years later.

My laugh didn’t make any difference to me one way or the other, or so I thought. If the comment floated by while I was first realizing I was extent, I suppose I was too preoccupied with my changes: my suddenly lame leg, my dead right arm, my inability to make myself understood, my embarrassment and puzzlement about not going to the bathroom by myself, the split rail fence around my entire bed, which, which meant it was not my bed.

The inability to go the bathroom—by yourself, alone—will obscure the question of whether or not somebody misses your laugh, trust me.

But I overheard it again, more recently—which flies in the orbit of anywhere within the last 20 months or so, “I’m going to miss his laugh”—and it’s hung around the back of my mind, the corners, gables, the out-of-the-way-places, until suddenly—and, I know, everything is, “suddenly,” in this kind of out-of-the-blue stage of life, but it happened, right here, right now, really suddenly—it really made a difference to me. What happened to my laugh?

I missed my laugh. Funny, how that works.

Now, January, 20l0, I am different than I was, then, January, 2008 (Well, yeah. For one thing, I’m conscious.). And I am learning the differences differently, becoming conscious of them, at first subconsciously, and then, consciously-but-what’s-the-difference-really, and then, Wham! Consciously. “Okay. Wait a minute. Where’s my goddamed laugh?”

“Your what?”

(I have a tendency to make dialogue out of whatever goes on in my mind in these encounters.).

“My laugh, dammit! I miss my laugh.”

“You know, you’re alive…”

“Yeah Maybe. But maybe I don’t know that I’m alive. Maybe I’m not myself. I mean, where’s my laugh, if I’m who you say I am? I recall it being loud. I remember that. Not squeaky. Not snickery. Not smarmy. And, sudden; it was sudden. AHaHahaha!

“It snuck up fast on both me and you, and it made us both laugh harder, as if it had surprised both of us. It might have been obnoxious, come to think of it, but it was mine. I remember other people talking about it. I don’t know why I remember it, all of a sudden, but I do.

“I do remember it sometimes started out deep too…I remember Susan telling me that her son, Matt, said she had gotten a phone call while she was out. She said, ‘Yeah, from whom?’ He said, ‘I’m sorry, I forgot to ask, but he laughed, the guy who called, and it sounded like either, Dr. Cave, Barry White, or Ed Lowe.’”

“So, now,” my mind says to me, “your throat has hosted a sufficient quiver of vacuums and feeders and air-hoses and needles, and, don’t forget, you yanked them out, too...”

“Well, I’m told, yes…”

“And you throw in the pneumonia…”

“Well, yeah, but, Hell. My laugh?”

“The pipes are scarred, you know, and torn.”

“Can I tell you what I’m dealing with? I heard myself laughing when no one was home, and I stopped short, as if I’d driven over a sleeping kitten. ‘What was that? Who was that?’ It sounded like an air hose trying to operate by itself. A deflated set of piper’s pipes, alone, on the side of the road, after the parade. Ahee…cough…Ahee …What is that?”

“What do you care? You’re alive.”

“I don’t care. Maybe I don’t. But…what if Susan cares? What if she misses my laugh?”

“You’re crazy.”

“I am, no question. But, I’m going to find my laugh.”

No comments:

Post a Comment