I rummaged through the cabinet at the Cancer Resource Center. An older lady joined me looking through the wigs and hairpieces that had been donated. I didn’t need one, since my hairstylist and cancer nurse-therapist, Darlene at Lovely Lady Salon had fitted me in my short platinum-colored wig. It wasn’t the best—since it was an affordable synthetic, but it would do until my hair grew back. Looking through the pile, I could see that other women were all too ready to get rid of their head coverings.
“My sister wanted me to find one for her,” the lady said. She had a dark brown wig that came almost to her shoulders.
My goodness, I thought. Sisters going through cancer at the same time.
“That must really be tough with both of you in treatment,” I said, empathy oozing from my voice.
She turned her head to the side, looking up at me with a curious expression and said, “Oh, no. She doesn’t have cancer. She just needs a wig.”
The lady continued, finally picking out one and adding a scarf for good measure. I watched her walking away, pleased with her finds.
I can’t believe she’d take that wig from here, knowing her sister doesn’t have cancer. Filled with indignation, I closed the cabinet and walked away, angry at the woman who’d taken advantage of the system. The scene played in my mind as I walked to my car.
Finally, that still small voice within broke through my irritation. Did you see cancer survivors standing in line for those wigs? What’s it going to hurt for her to feel good about doing something nice for her sister?
Eventually, I looked back at that incident and saw how senseless my anger had been. I told myself I should ‘lighten up’ and not be so serious, let go of my harsh expectations of others’ behavior. Finding humor in that situation was a healthier way of living.
Likewise, it had been helpful over my years as a school nurse. There were days working in a middle school that the only way to survive was to laugh; sometimes with the students, and other times at myself. The older I became the more I felt a divide with the middle school culture. One day, a student reminded me of that huge gap.
She was an adorable sixth grader and was sitting in my office on the cot. We were chit-chatting and she said, “I like your shoes.” Not unusual for an adolescent girl to notice shoes. I thought mine must look cool for her to say that. Then she added with a smile, “My Grandma has a pair like that.”
Oh, I thought. Forgot I’m the age of your grandparents.
Finding humor in growing older seems to be an essential skill for navigating those changes we face. It has helped me through times when I’ve tried to be patient with my mother. Like when Mama was eighty-five and I took her for a bra fitting.
The oldest grandchild was getting married and I thought Mama needed proper support underneath that pretty blue suit. It proved to be quite an ordeal with Mama, and me, and Ethel, the Fit Specialist, in that four-by-four foot dressing room.
Later, I found the humor in that outing when I wrote my essay, “Pull Those Puppies Up!” One of my greatest delights was reading it at the ladies’ luncheon at my home church with Mama sitting in front of the room, laughing until her body shook and tears streamed down her face. If she could understand now, that it was published this week in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, she would chuckle that her story was in a publication named after a mule.
While they mistakingly posted it as Fiction, it’s an Essay, a true story, ’cause I couldn’t have made that up!
Here’s the Link:
Now I’m glad that I’m learning to see the ‘funny’ in situations, laughing at life, laughing at myself.
What about You?
How has humor helped you through life?
Are there ways you could ‘lighten up’ and let go of some of your seriousness?