The following post was inspired by Becky Aikman’s Saturday Night Widows, The Adventures of Six Friends Remaking Their Lives. After being kicked out of her widow support group for being too positive, Becky creates her own support group with an unusual twist. This lovely, hope-filled memoir redefines how we think about widows and grief. I loved her outlook on life, love, friendship, and the possibilities for new happiness after loss. As a member of From Left to Write, I was sent a copy of this book to inspire this post. Join From Left to Write on February 14th as we discuss Saturday Night Widows.
Growing up, I was always the quiet, serious type. People knew me as the good student, the rule follower, the people pleaser. I was many things, but funny? Well, that wasn’t one of them.
Except to my dad.
Growing up, laughter was a way of life in our family. We’d banter at the dinner table, we’d relive silly moments and phrases from our past whenever it seemed fitting, and when things got stressful, that’s when we’d get really hilarious.
I was lucky. My parents taught me to laugh. At life. At unexpected fortune. And misfortune. At myself.
When my dad got sick, I made it a point to spend my daily commute on the phone with him. Though his quickly diminishing short-term memory limited the depth of our conversations, there was one thing I could count on. Making him laugh. Whether it was a story about one of my kids saying something outrageous, or a self-deprecating tale of my work woes, I knew just what to say to get a reaction.
It was rarely the ha-ha kind of laugh we all engage in throughout the day. No, my dad knew how to laugh with his entire body. He’d throw his head back, and let out an unbridled sound of delight.
It was in those moments that I felt like I could make things better. Right there in that second, the laughter was all that mattered. Gone were the brain scans, the injuries, the forgetfulness, the fear.
Looking back, I realize that those moments helped me become who I am as a writer. I learned the true power of making someone smile. Now people read my words about parenting for a good laugh. And in those moments, they forget about the piles of laundry they should be dealing with. They forget that they had an argument with their boss at work that day. They forget that they haven’t slept more than a two-hour stretch in weeks. In those moments, the laughter is everything.
While I do love that I can share that connection through the written word, I’ve found that I have a new live audience. It’s not that she wasn’t always a fan of mine, she just let my dad sit front and center. Now that he’s gone, my mom and I laugh together more. We bond over silly things the kids say, my mothering mishaps, and stories about friends.
We laugh. And in that laughter is our love. Our love for each other, our love for life. It may not be the life we imagined we’d live — my dad, her husband, gone too soon. But it’s a good life.
And, it turns out — while writing Saturday Night Widows— Becky learned that the more widows (and I like to think daughters) laugh and smile genuine smiles, the kind that make your eyes involuntarily crinkle up, the better they would feel during the early years of bereavement.
So, no, our grief isn’t a thing of the past. But laughter surely makes for a better present. And — if Becky and her wildly interesting friends are any indication — a better future, as well.