Ray has a wonderful laugh. He’s the guy you’re glad is in the theater audience watching a funny play or film. It’s hysterical when he’s on the plane with ear phones listening to a movie. His laugh creates big smiles and chuckles for several rows.
For forty-three years, his laughter has lifted my heart, and for forty-three years, it’s been a primary objective of mine, no matter what the circumstances, to make him laugh. Although, we’ve learned, that making someone laugh who has just had a hernia operation is not necessarily a kindness.
I love to make Ray laugh.
I can be pretty funny, and outrageous, and he loves my sense of humor. So, every day, from the moment we kiss “good morning,” to the moment we kiss “good night,” if a situation arises that strikes me as funny, I share it with Ray, sometimes with a quip, sometimes with the voices of different characters, sometimes dancing in front of the television, but, most often teasing him in front of others. He looks forward to it. The dogs have done their part too, Jeremy, Brit, and Lincoln. The Labradoodle knows he’s funny when he runs around the house with my oh-so-sexy underwear in his mouth, tail wagging, as he waits to be chased. Everyone smiles when Lincoln rides around with me in the passenger seat of the old, red Mercedes convertible.
Laughter is great medicine for the body and the soul. It releases endorphins that actually help fight disease. Some groups of people find it easy to see the humor in life. The Irish and Jews can be non-stop hysterical. If you’re in the hospital, and they ask you your faith, say “Jewish.” The rabbi will make you laugh.
It heartens me of late to watch my husband begin to laugh on his own more easily, and more often. For many years, his mood has been heavier, less joyful, because of financial stress. We’re rich by all measures, but our financial stability has been teetering since we loaned money to friends. Even that drama is something we can laugh about, but the joke takes a long set up.
Ray’s lightened mood is the direct result of us, for the first time, working as a team to become more financially stable. That has included selling one home, and putting the other on the market. We’ve also sold most of our art and high end antiques. When the Fort Lauderdale house sells, we’ll move into one smaller, and more suited to our age and needs. But please don’t feel badly. We’re actually happy, and excited about it. And, I’ve saved enough lifelong “treasures” that we won’t feel wanting.
Financial security has been my soulmate’s primary household focus. He has kept the finances as his sole domain. His goal in our marriage is to have me be happy. I have the same goal as him, having me be happy.
My goal is having Ray be happy, but we each go about it differently. Anything I say in passing becomes his immediate objective to buy, and make real. Despite my constant assurance that I am happy, and need nothing, he nevertheless zeroes in on things he thinks will make me feel special and loved. For the past ten years, he has carried the weight of financial insecurity on his own back in shame, and in disappointment in himself. What changed for him was the realization that I was stepping in to make the decisions he knew needed to be made. A burden shared is a burden halved.
My primary objective in our marriage is to know that the love of my life will die with no regrets, a man fully fulfilled, and free from worry. With the time that has been made available with no work-related traveling, I’m focusing more and more attention on our final years together. I want Ray away from the desk where he has balanced credit card debt, paid bills, and worried about whether we’d have enough money to make it to the end. We will. Now, it’s time to reconnect, play, and be light hearted.
Given the constant severe pain my spouse is in, as a result of back problems, and too much surgery, it’s a marvel to me that he smiles and laughs as much as he does. Every time he looks at me, he smiles. And what a smile he has. It lights the room, and my soul.
All of us, regardless of our circumstances, need to smile and laugh more often. Even if we force ourselves to smile, it lifts our mood, and changes our focus. Our spouses want us to laugh, as do the people checking us out of the doctor’s office or grocery store. Laughter is a common denominator that eliminates consciousness of class or power.
Have you ever laughed with a sick friend, or one who has just buried a loved one? They’re grateful for the release from their prison of dread. They’re exhausted by their pain and sorrow, and want to feel normal again, if even for just a brief moment. The same is true with those we love the most. They want to laugh, to smile, to feel light and joyful.
If you feel that you have no sense of humor, rent a funny movie, watch “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and make friends with people who make you laugh. I may get a business card made up that says, “If You’re Cryin,’ Call Brian,”which should never get mixed in with my end-of-life spiritual doula cards, “If You’re Dyin’, Call Brian.”
check out Brian McNaught's previous column