My initial response to the prompt “What makes you laugh” was a very succinct “everything”. However as I started struggling to write something more than that I suddenly realised that this could be the second of my broad life trilogy which started with “Ho Hum” and will be followed by “Ho Om” about the latter part of my life. “Ho Hum” coincidentally was written in response to a prompt on an earlier WordPress challenge I participated in, Writing101.
My wife Molly coined the title “Ho Ho Man” shortly after we met to describe my predilection for making a joke about nearly everything. I was a little bit miffed at first but then started to see the truth in it. It was a practice, a way of living, a persona that I had adopted in my late teens in response to my fathers influence at that time. He was always seeing the funny side of things and happy to share his views. He was 69 going on 18 when he died, that is how I saw him. He just never seemed to grow up as they say. And after a childhood idolising him from afar and by reputation only I just fell under his spell when I started living with him in New Zealand at 17 after my grandmother died.
I really blossomed into the role of court jester when I joined the Air Force after 12 or 18 months of his influence. I stepped into adulthood with a completely different persona to the shy, withdrawn, sad child that I think I was. I use the court jester term advisedly because I think that is how people saw me, a bit of a character is probably how I was described with a hint of a smile. I was always able to see the humour in any situation, as did my father.
No matter how dire the situation or circumstance, there was always a funny side to be found, that was my father’s motto it seemed. An example would be at my grandfather’s funeral where my father and I were two of the pallbearers. There had been heavy rain overnight and the open grave had a layer of water at the bottom. As we lowered the coffin in to the grave my father muttered, “Poor old Pop, worked in the mines up to his arse in water all his life and now we have to bury him in it”. Amidst the tears I had to choke back a chuckle.
All too often the humour choked off the sadness or any real feelings I may have had about the situation. It became my shield to hide behind. It was also offset by the occasional outburst of incandescent rage, almost as if the suppression of feelings became too great and like a pressure cooker the tension had to find an outlet.
This was the persona I built up over forty years and even now I catch myself falling back into it with an inappropriate joke or comment about something. I shudder now remembering some of the strange looks I got from other people amidst their laughter, they just wondered what was going on with me. I just coasted over those, nothing seemed to get through to me. I felt as though I had finally found my niche in life after feeling lost and abandoned all through my childhood. People were noticing me, I was often the centre of attention and I loved it. So I can not blame my father for everything, I went along with it for my own reasons.
My mother used to say about my father, “He always made me laugh”. But sometimes life needs more than a laugh.