Blood, sweat and laughter

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 7, 2013

Happiness means different things to different people.
Take my brother. Blind all his life and crippled by cerebral palsy, Joe lives alone with plenty of time to think about things he doesn’t have and to miss all the people he has loved and lost.
There are times, yes, when he does exactly that. Who doesn’t?
But Saturday night, he was as happy as happy ever gets for one simple reason: Football.
Clemson University had just won its season opener against the University of Georgia. And Joe — with nothing against the Bulldogs — was over the moon, so to speak, an orange-blooded, paw-footed Clemson fan-atic.
Early on, he pulled for the South Carolina Gamecocks, but that ended when he married Tommie Jean. She, too, was blind and depended on him in all sorts of ways, but insisted that he root for the Tigers.
They had 10 good years together and seldom missed a Clemson game on the radio. He lost her to cancer eight years ago, but remains fiercely loyal to her memory and her team.
The game had just ended when I called him. No answer.
“You’re probably clapping too loud to hear the phone,” I said to his voice mail, “or had to go change your pants. Call me.”
Five minutes later he rang.

“Hey, sister! You always call me when the Tigers win!”
“I don’t call when they lose because you’re too mad to talk.”
He chuckled. “I appreciate it.”
“Did you like that game?”

“I loved it!” he said. “I clapped so hard my hands are hurting!”
Everybody needs something to clap about once in a while.
I thought of that this morning when my husband pulled the skimmer basket from the pool and found a scorpion about the size of Danny DeVito.
We live in a desert. Deserts have scorpions. We know this. But we had never seen one until now. We won’t soon forget it.
Luckily for my husband, it was dead and didn’t sting him. He was happy about that. There is nothing like deliverance to make you glad to be alive.
Later, when I called my sister, I didn’t mention the scorpion. She worries enough as it is. She sounded as happy as Joe did, for a whole different reason: Food.
Her neighbor, Martha, my longtime friend, had brought over a chicken casserole. Bobbie loves Martha almost as much as she loves eating. But it was the kindness as much as the food that made her feel like clapping.
Usually, stories of victory and deliverance and kindness are enough to keep me clapping all day. And they might have, if not for a few minor mishaps.
First, I tried to change a light bulb in the bathroom and managed to break it off at the base. It shattered in daggers that flew all the way out into the bedroom but miraculously cut only a tiny slit in my hand that bled like a slaughtered pig.
It took an hour to clean up the mess. While vacuuming the bedroom, I somehow snagged the bed skirt and sucked it half off the bed. I had to take the vacuum apart to pull it out. I don’t know about you, but when I take things apart, they never go back together the same way.
I was not happy. So I went to the kitchen to get a Diet Coke — and when I popped off the top, it exploded. In my face. In my hair. All over my world.
I stood there for a moment, covered in sweat and blood and Diet Coke and little slivers of glass. Then I started to laugh.
Life is a never-ending story. We take turns telling it, sharing it with one another in pieces, long and short, funny or sad. You tell me your stories and I tell you mine, but they’re all threads of one fabric, patches on one quilt that covers and warms us, tells us who we are, sustains us in times good and bad.
Through our stories, we share in each other’s happiness, bear each other’s burdens and laugh at our own bumbling mistakes.
In the beginning was the Word. It’s still spoken every day. That’s something to clap about.

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