Out of all the lessons in life, the most important lesson I’ve learned is
In high school I received an award for “laughing in the face of disaster”. Little did they know how I’d carry that torch throughout my life and into my various careers. In the 1980’s I was a disaster and I’m surprised there’s not a hurricane named after me ... yet. I worked for years in law firms that specialized in treating personal disasters with copious amounts of paper and words; and then in a CPA firm where I handed trembling clients their big yellow envelopes filled with doom and taxation. It was a perfect lead into the fire department where the work is generated by disasters, either of a personal or geographic nature. My next career? Emergency Management. Yes, its a real job classification.
Laughter is a response that some people use in lieu of crying. If there’s crying around me, my first instinct is to cut the mood with some jokes. This goes over as well as my hysterical laughing jag sitting in the front row of a funeral with my BFF Kathy (circa 1989). Tears streaming down our faces as we cupped our faces with our hands, hoping people would think we were crying instead of laughing.
Last month I found a flier on the Starbucks community board that called out for poems addressing domestic violence. My first response was “ugh, how depressing” fast forward two seconds and I fantasized about offering a funny poem about domestic violence. You know, to “lighten the mood” a little. The working title is “Nothing Says ‘I’m sorry’ Like a Liquor Store Rose.”
Storytime: About 14 years ago I was pregnant. It was October and my wedding anniversary. We married in October because it’s “Disaster Month”. We were headed out to San Francisco to stay on a boat for the night all alone in the harbor. We stopped at the OB/GYN on the way to get my checkup and listen to the heartbeat of our little boy or girl. It was a regular visit except that we were excited about our anniversary adventure. They squirted the warm goop on my belly and skidded around for a while to find the tiny heartbeat. The machine wasn’t picking up anything so they went to the vaginal heartbeat monitor and that’s when time started slowing down, and the quiet became thick and powerful. My husband was in the room with me, the doc, and the nurse. Being silent and strong, like he always is. The doctor removed the monitor and gently put his hand on my knee that was still bent up from my foot in the stirrup. All he said was “I’m sorry”.
He told me everything in those two short words. He told me the baby was gone, I was not pregnant, and I wailed like one of those whales on the relaxation cd. Seriously, if I had to reproduce that sound right now or get shot in the teeth, I’d have to get shot in the teeth. It’s a sounds that only happens when you’re heart has been broken. Actually, it’s more like the heart inside of your heart. There are not words for that.
The doctor and nurse left me, my husband, and the machine that didn’t make noise in the small room and I put my head on his huge pectoral muscles and snotted up his black t-shirt so bad that it looked like he had snail races on his shirt the night before. We considered going back home instead of our weekend in the city, but I wasn’t ready to address my son and daughter back at home. I was going to be the one who says “I’m sorry” and watch them break.
For the next two days I was in a fog in San Francisco, literally and figuratively. Floating along with my quiet rock husband. I’d go into the head (that’s the term for the potty on a boat) and cry because I didn’t want to wreck the weekend after we’d spent so much money on the boat.
After some days I saw a shrink and that helped. Then I bought a pair of boots. And that helped some more. Then I remembered a scene from Howard Stern’s Private Parts movie and that helped a lot
Howard and his wife Alison were expecting their first child, when she emerged from the bathroom announcing that she'd just miscarried. Their crying and holding each other: Action!
A - I think something's wrong.
H - Even if I'd put you in the hospital and I pumped you full of every medication possible, you still would've lost the pregnancy. Your body rejected what was going on. And that's so healthy. It's such a good way to look at it. And in a couple of months, we're gonna try to have a baby again and everything's gonna go great. You're gonna be totally confident that everything's going good because you know your body would reject it if it wasn't going right... you know?
A - I have to tell my parents.
H - Not really. We don't have to tell your parents. You know what you could do? I didn't want to tell you this, but I took a polaroid of the toilet. And we can just mail them a picture of that, and they can walk around Florida, you know, and say it was our grandchild and your mother will be so happy. She just wants pictures to show her friends.
They cry, laugh, embrace, and move through it.
About a year later, we tried and again and that’s when we were blessed with our youngest daughter. So you see, it all worked out because I got a new pair of boots.