Shrieks of Laughter

I Believe in Laughter

Flipping through papers on my kitchen table, my friend saw something that sparked his interest: a collection of cookbooks with unappetizing titles. Easy to Swallow, Easy to Chew Cookbook and The Gerson Therapy, Proven Nutritional Program. His eyes lit up at the chance to mock them. He began thumbing through the pages with a mischievous grin and showing us the “How to” articles on cooking and eating for those with particular needs. When he regained composure and finally put the books down he asked me, “Are these for you? Do you need to be taught how to eat your food?”

No, I didn’t need to be taught how to eat my food and no, those books weren’t mine. My face turned red-hot with embarrassment, and I could feel a laugh bubbling up from deep inside my lungs. I was nervous because for the first time I was forced to tell my friends what I kept hidden so deep inside. It took me a minute to build up the courage to let them in: “Those are my dad’s cancer cookbooks.”

I said it. I felt completely different than I imagined I would. Rather than beckoning a pity-party and accepting their “I’m so sorry’s” and “Is he ok?,” I smiled. My friends looked at me with devastated expressions as an awkward silence flooded the room; after news like that is shared, what could possibly be said? Nothing. There was nothing to say, no pity to express; no knowledge if he would be ok. But at that moment, I was ok. I broke the silence with shrieks of laughter.

As a crass reaction to the delicate situation, I started laughing like never before. This was a moment to be handled like adults, where my friends would comfort me and I confide in them my struggle—but instead I took this as an opportunity to let go. I became hysterical. My eyes were shut tight, my grin was as wide as my face and I’m certain that I was drooling, but it all felt so good. I was keeling over, heaving, gasping for air as high-pitched sounds found their way out sporadically. I was having an asthma attack of laughter.

My dad’s cancer wasn’t humorous, so I equated my reaction to laughing at a funeral and gave a pardon to my inappropriateness. I thought I laughed for hours, and I wish it had lasted that long because that was the happiest I’d been in months. The release of emotion-although unfitting-was tranquil amidst all my hysteria.

I never knew how to talk about my dad, how to feel about his sickness, how to help him, or how to continue being myself without feeling guilt or shame for still living my life. But in this moment I completely let go. I stopped feeling sad and sorry for him; I accepted his condition and put my energy towards getting him better and helping him laugh. Laughter may not have cured my dad’s cancer, but it saved me.

Giorgianna Seibt

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