There’s Something Funny Here
Want Me to Make You a Sandwich?
Three years ago on a summer day in August, I was visiting my parents in Somers, NY. It was lunchtime and we were about to take our first spoonfuls of the chicken soup I had made the night before. As I looked across the kitchen table at my father, I expected to see a satisfied smile but instead there was a glazed look in his eyes and I noticed he could barely hold himself up. I sprang to my feet, and while my mother and I bolstered him on each side, I reached for the phone to call 911. Fortunately this turned out to be a case of syncope (his blood pressure had dropped too low) and was easily rectified by an adjustment in his medications. At the time though, we thought it might have been a stroke, and that alarming is-this-it question lingered in the air.
As the EMT crew expertly lifted Dad and carried him out of the house, the neighbors gathered. Angela, a friend of my parents, offered to stay with my mother so that I could ride with Dad. As I grabbed my pocketbook and tried to give a reassuring smile, my mother commented about my not having had a chance to have lunch, which prompted Angela to offer, “Want me to make you a sandwich?”
Now please picture this. My father is strapped to a gurney. I’m attempting to hide my tears behind sunglasses. Yet in the midst of all this, I picture ordering a deli sandwich. Yeah, I’ll have a chicken cutlet on a poppy-seed roll, please. You don’t mind, do you, Pops? Maybe we should ask the EMT guys and the ambulance driver, too. As an Italian-American, this whole scene made perfect sense to me. I stepped into the ambulance and tossed a parting question to Angela: Are you Italian? I knew the answer had to be yes.
Moments later in the emergency room, my father and I were laughing at this crazy and classic example of the importance of food in our family. My mother had a long history of prioritizing meals during emergencies. When Mom arrived at the hospital later, she barely sat down before asking me, “Did you have lunch?”
The Other Side of Serious
I found all of it to be very funny…the way I had gently slid the bowl of soup away from Dad so his face wouldn’t fall in it, how the EMTs had commented that it was very warm in the house (it was that hot pot of soup!), and the out-of-place sandwich question that felt so normal to me. As I consider it now, I realize this is another gift my father gave me, to see that the other side of serious is funny.
What’s funny about this? I’ve watched Tony Robbins use that question as a way to help people cut through the drama attached to their problems and switch to a lighter perspective that produces better thinking. Can funny and serious coexist? By all means and they often do, so you might as well appreciate the funny part.
That’s Going in the Book
If you can’t quite find the funny in your situation, then just see it as something that’s “going in the book.” This is what a friend of mine and I will say to each other when in the midst of perplexing circumstances or when dealing with a challenge that feels incredible, ridiculous or somehow over the top. By saying, “That’s going in the book,” it lends a bit of levity and also subtly implies that things will turn out all right. It will be one of many stories in your book of memoirs — a tall tale you can tell about what it was that got you through it with flying colors.
This Week’s Call to Action:
By the way, that photo of the poppy-seed sandwich is making me hungry. Want me to make you a sandwich?
The other side of serious is funny.
Here's to you,