Half Can Be Better Than Whole

I have hours of videotape – glorious images of travels, family fun, holiday celebrations, airport arrivals and departures – but not a fraction of a second captures my husband’s laughter. There are giggling, snickering, guffawing, and “Hah!”, as well as “Hah hah hah” moments, but in comparison of what I know he’s capable, those are the equivalent of a simple reflex – a mere hiccup or clearing of the throat. His laughter, the one that is the most memorable, occurs very seldom.

It’s not that he doesn’t laugh. He does. But the volcanic burst of energy, knocking him to the floor kind of laughter – that’s the one I’d like to capture. It appears about as often as a pilliated woodpecker – odd analogy which I’ll have to blog about at some point – once every couple of years. That’s probably a good thing. Based on the volume of expended energy, I’m not convinced a mere mortal is capable of physically enduring more frequent episodes. Add to that, the incidents which trigger my husband’s volcanic laughter (belly-laughs simply don’t describe the process) are best described as surreal. I’d have to consider whether or not it would be worth it to have an increase in surreal, strange incidents more than once every couple of years. Until the kids are grown and gone, probably not.

“Surreal” happened on my husband’s birthday. Leaving the kitchen after his birthday dinner, he stopped to rifle through the pile of mail – a very ordinary, mundane task which he’s repeated hundreds, if not thousands of times throughout our marriage. I heard bits and pieces of him conversing with himself, while I loaded the dishwasher. My peripheral vision caught him repeatedly flipping a white envelope over and over, its cellophane “window” crackling with each flip. I turned to watch him intently study it, staring through the window to its contents. “What in the world,” he asked himself. He flipped it one more time, reading the back of the envelope, “Dear Valued Postal Customer: I want to extend my sincere apology as your Postmaster for the enclosed document that was inadvertently damaged in handling by your Postal Service……”.

Flipping it back over to the front, he read the neatly written mailing address, visible through the window – his name, address, city, state and zip code.

“What in the….”, he muttered, finally opening the Postal Service envelope to remove the one inside, addressed to him.

And that’s when the real fun began. He howled. There’s no other way to describe it. Between howls he gasped, “It’s my b-b-b-b- b-b-irth birth birthd-aaaaay card”. Howl. Gasp. Big intake of air. “It’s only half a card. Half a card! The rest of it must have been cut off by machinery!”

Grasping the edge of the counter, bent-over-double – oh, how I love to watch the process – wiping tears from his eyes, he read the card front. Actually, he read the left half of the card front seeing as how the right was long gone heaven only knows where.

this is a birthda…..
You don’t have to….
retrieve it, click….

“Waaaaahhhhhhhahahahahaha”. Bent over double, arm held high over his head, waving the card for all to see, he panted, “It’s my, my, my b-b-b-b-irth-irth-irth-d-d-d-d-aaaaaaaaaaaay card……fff-ffrrr-fffrrrrrr-ffrrrrooommmmm m-m-m-m-m-my fath-fath-fath-father”.

My dry response of “How nice! Open it and read the inside!” sent him down for the count, lying on the floor gasping for air, managing a throat-numbing gurgling rib-cracking, “ggggggeeeehhhhhhhaaaawwwwwwwww” before coughing fits threatened to remove him far too early from this life. And that’s where I joined in the fun. It took us awhile, during which we gasped, hacked, laughed, cried, pointing at each other, the envelopes, and the card, never successfully wheezing out an entire sentence, to realize that two small faces were staring at us. No amount of explanations, in answer to their very worried and demanding, “Just what’s so funny you guys”, could convince them this was really funny. When one of us would try, the other would collapse out of view into fits of laughter which only served to irritate the kids all the more. “Come on. Let’s go watch ‘Magic School Bus’”, the reproving 10-year-old said to her little brother. Poor dears are just too young to appreciate a surprise attack of surreal.

When my husband was sufficiently able to balance himself into a full upright position, he grabbed for the phone, wheezing out the words, “Have…have…have to call my father…”. He was greeted by the answering machine and almost succeeded at leaving a coherent message without giving in to the laughter that threatened to take him down for the count, but it won out.

We had calmed considerably, when his father later returned our call. You know it was a genuine Surreal Belly-Buster when all it takes, several hours or even a day later is to remember the tiniest portion of what set you off to begin with, and you’re back on the floor. In this case, the floodgates were opened when my father-in-law said that HE was in possession of the TOP HALF of the birthday card, returned to him in his very own “Dear Valued Postal Customer” envelope.

There was a very important lesson to be learned – properly addressing your cards and letters will result in the delivery of your mail, through snow, sleet, rain, heat, ice, or malfunctioning Postal Service machines. You may not receive your entire piece of mail, but as we found out, you’ll get at least half a card. And half a card is better than none – given the bounty of laughter to which we were treated, half a card is a lot more fun than receiving a whole card!

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