I sat nervously looking out the window of the brown MGB while my sister drove us to the hospital. I don’t remember talking much, but I think we were kinder to each other than we normally were. I was 13, she was 16 and neither of us spent a lot of time loving each other well. Christopher Cross was playing on the radio, or maybe it was Journey, I am not really sure, I just know that Kelly had the music turned up really loud so that we wouldn’t have to talk a lot. Dad had brain surgery earlier in the day, and we were going to visit him in the ICU. A part of me shut down when Dad got sick. For thirteen years, my self-absorbed brain had not really been faced with many trials besides an occasional fight with a friend, losing a tennis match or a goldfish floating at the top of the fishbowl when I came home from school. I had no place for “my dad has a brain tumor” so I decided to deny it was happening. Driving to the ICU to see my dad who just had his head cut open made it difficult to tuck the conflict away. So I sat chewing my lip, fighting a stomach ache, trying to sing along to whatever 70s love song my sister had chosen on her 8 track car stereo.
We walked down the hospital corridor, together I think. I only remember feeling alone. As we entered the ICU, Kelly led me to a room where we saw a person hooked up to every single medical machine possible. The room was completely quiet except for all of the humming and beeping of those machines that were obviously helping to keep this person alive. I thought I might throw up as I considered having to walk up and see my dad completely bruised and wounded from surgery. My sister stood next to the bed crying, sobbing in fact, and it wasn’t until I heard her quietly say, “Dad?” that my brain woke up and started to process again. I looked more carefully at the person lying in this bed and realized he looked nothing like my dad. I looked at him, at my sobbing sister, and finally said, “That’s not Dad!” My sister stopped crying and looked around. She looked at me and wide eyed she said, “Who is this?” I shrugged my shoulders, nervously giggled and said, “I don’t know, but let’s get out of here!” We ran out of the room and made our way to the room where Dad was resting. As soon as we walked in, I recognized my dad and my heart settled a bit. I slowly walked towards the bed, unsure of what to do or what to say. And then I heard, “Hi sweetheart! How do I look?”
I have no memory of what I did after that. I am sure I ran to hug my dad, but the only memory I have is driving home with my sister and suddenly laughing so hard that she had walked into the wrong hospital room and sobbed over someone who wasn’t our dad. We laughed so hard that she wet her pants and to this day I can’t think about that moment without smiling or laughing. We had driven to the hospital in silence, but drove home laughing, talking and sharing a closeness that allowed my fear to briefly subside. Sometimes in the midst of something tragic, you experience moments of hysterical laughter and connection that just allow your heart to keep walking through the darkness. That was one of those moments.
How about you? Where has laughter helped you in the dark moments?