When my dad was really sick, it took him a long, long time to move from Point A to Point B, even if the points were only a few feet apart. Lack of oxygen takes its toll on a body. On the rare occasion that he left the house, it was in a wheelchair (which nearly did him in), but in the house, he used crutches to help him keep his balance as he struggled from point to point.
Watching him struggle -- this man who had always been so independent and full of energy, who had always been my fixer -- was incredibly difficult, to say the least. I'm sure he knew this, though we never acknowledged it. Instead, we used humor to deflect the discomfort and pain.
I remember one time, about six months before he died, we were having a cook-out to celebrate my then-husband's graduation from Virginia Tech. Dad, connected to his oxygen machine, legs swollen with edema, made his way ever so slowly from the kitchen, through the garage, and to the deck. I followed behind and after several minutes, I said, "For crying out loud, old man, will you just hurry up?! Rob will have his master's degree before you get out there!"
My dad didn't stop moving... he didn't say anything... but he held up his arm, hand balled into a fist... and extended his middle finger.
(I said we used humor, not manners.)
Another time, a few months later, he was making his slow way down the hall, from the living room to the bedroom. Again, I was behind him. He stopped, wiggled his backside, threw his leg out to the side, and said, "I gotta dance!"
I very nearly wet myself.
That lesson -- that pain doesn't have to erase The Funny -- was one of the most valuable my dad taught me. And when my Funny goes into hiding, I remember his 'dance.' The memory works hard to coax The Funny out...
The Funny is being stubborn this time.
Maybe I should channel my dad...