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Eddie Adelman of Belfast is a writer.
Let’s face it. The last year hasn’t exactly been a barrel of laughs.
So much of our world has been turned upside down. Everything we do just seems a little harder. The things we used to take for granted now require pre-planning: grocery shopping, work, doctor’s appointments, school, going to the gym.
Human contact, which used to be a given, feels like a luxury now. And since most of us are social beings, it’s definitely taken a toll.
But sadly, that’s not the worst part. For those who actually contract the virus, it’s not just an inconvenience. In some cases, it’s literally life and death.
So, why would anybody bring up laughter at a time like this? A better question might be, “Why not?”
Perhaps a personal story will help answer that question.
Back in 1975, my father was quite ill and spent months in and out of the hospital. And ironically, this man who intensely disliked doctors and hospitals, spent his last days in a hospital with tubes and needles coming out of all parts of his body.
One time, while sitting next to him at his ICU bed, he motioned for me to put my ear up to his lips. He then pulled away the tracheotomy tube, covered the throat opening with his fingers, and whispered to me in a barely audible voice, “They really got you by the balls in here.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. And then, so did he. Talk about gallows humor.
A few days later, we lost him.
But that vital life lesson has always remained with me. Even in the depths of pain, sadness and despair, there’s always room for laughter.
Think about it. Haven’t we all experienced nervous laughter while confronting an uncertain situation? On the other hand, haven’t we all experienced tears of joy when our hearts swelled with happiness?
What would weddings or graduations be like without the sounds of weeping and noses blowing? And the birth of a child? Who could possibly cry at a moment like that? The short answer is: everyone, even macho guys.
And ask yourself this. How many times have you laughed so hard at a joke or humorous situation that you actually started crying? Show of hands?
As far as I can tell, laughter and tears are two sides of the same coin. A simple flip and you get the polar opposite.
All of which brings us back to the pandemic.
I’m not naïve enough to think that millions of deaths worldwide due to the pandemic is any laughing matter. Clearly, it’s not.
But for many of us, it’s the day-to-day loss of the very things that buoy our spirits that has brought so much sorrow, and yes, despair.
That being said, let’s never forget the one thing we haven’t lost, and never will — our capacity for laughter.
Remember back in April when all the barber shops and beauty parlors were shut down? Do you remember what your hair looked like? Every day was a bad hair day.
At first I was appalled at what I saw in the mirror. And then, I couldn’t help but break into laughter. After all, it was kind of funny.
And that’s just for starters.
Cooking disasters. Kids. Do-it-yourself exploits. Lunch in your pajamas. Elbow bumps. Facemask “aroma.” All grist for the mill.
And if you’re really looking for humor in this pandemic, look no further than Zoom.
“I am so over this meeting.” And just when you thought you were muted. Oops.
Again, let me be clear. I’m in no way trying to diminish the pain and suffering that COVID-19 has inflicted. It’s beyond devastating.
Eventually, though, this pandemic will be in our rearview mirror.
But until it is, keep wearing a mask, socially distance and wash your hands.
And above all, don’t forget to laugh.