When you’re a kid, there comes a time that you realize there are certain laughs that you love to hear. And later, there’s an even more amazing moment that occurs when you realize you have the ability to make those people laugh. The epic laughs of my childhood, as far back as I can remember, were those laughs belonging to my father, my mother (it’s even better when she makes herself laugh) and the laugh of my uncle (on pop’s side). Nothing personal against the laughs missing from this list, but the list is the list. Truth is, aside from maybe two or three laughs, I love the sound of everyone’s laugh. But the three I mentioned have shaped my sense of humor more than any others.
All three are distinct, in both sound, and the way they make me feel. Dad’s laugh offers validation. Mom’s laugh makes me laugh, and also comforts me. Then there’s Uncle Jerry’s laugh. It’s really something else. As a kid, just being in a room and hearing it, I knew that whatever was said, was legitimately funny. It’s an infectious laugh, but isn’t loud, and his face just lights up with a twinkle in his eye that rivals the gaudiest of Christmas decorations.
Then the real magic came from learning I had the ability to earn that laugh. Something I really came to appreciate when I was 12 years old. We had just moved to Kansas from the east coast, and right before school started, my parents sent me to visit my cousin in LA and aunt and uncle in San Diego. I had been once before, at the ripe age of 5, so this was the first time I really experienced California. But I was already a fan, because I had been idolizing my cousins and my uncle. I was 12, and there were three careers I was interested in. I was either going to play second base for the Mets, be their General Manager or I was going to design cars for Nissan. The first two are pretty obvious, but the third, that came directly from my uncle. Now as a grown man, or at least an older man (since, you know, I hardly ever grew) I have guilt over how I idolized my uncle over my own father. But even he’d admit, designing cars is cooler than selling medical equipment.
I came home, and the following statements were absolutes:
· I was going to go to UCLA, I’d still be a Met fan and feel a sense of rivalry with the city of Los Angeles, but man, that campus was awesome. (I didn’t go to UCLA, but I stayed a Met fan with a love/hate relationship with LA. Love won out when I took my daughter there)
· I’m either living in California or New York when I’m all growns up. (Well, it hasn’t happened, but I’d argue I’m not yet all growns up. And California is still at the top of my list. )
· I won’t play second base for the Mets, so I’ll either be the General Manager, or I’ll work at Nissan. (So..my first two cars were both Nissan.)
· Being an uncle is absolute coolest thing you can be, and I can’t wait to be one. Also, I’m going to be the best at it. (It’s the second coolest, first is a tie between husband and father. But for a while, anyway, I was the best uncle.)
· I can make my uncle laugh, so I really am actually funny. (And you know this, man.)
Now, this is all relevant because life happened to my family over the last week and a half, the way that life happens to us all on occasion. It slapped us like it was Ray Rice, kicked us like it was Kareem Hunt and hurt us to the core like it was Donald Trump. I’ve heard my father get choked up for maybe the third time in my life. I’ve had my cousins tell me they love me (and I’ve told them) more times than the previous 42 years. And I hear that laugh in back of my mind, just faintly enough to remind me that I need to hear it again. I don’t know if he needs to laugh more than I need to hear it, but both statements are absolute.