I Had to Laugh

“But, we like water, Grandpa!”  The young man stomping through the lake of water in the backyard looked up at me, eyes twinkling as he spoke the words.  And, I had to laugh.  The sky was raining still more liquid unhappiness and this wet Grandpa was standing with a shovel in his hand, digging a trench.  Up the hill a few feet, my daughter’s home was in danger of filling with water as nearly a foot of water stood against the side of the brick structure.  The ground, saturated from the last several days of precipitation, was no longer allowing water to permeate the top soil, so the excess sought a place to rest.  Another few inches earlier that morning had flowed down from the neighbor’s, filling the low spot beside the house to overflowing, before continuing its journey down the hillside.  Some time during the morning, the water began to seep into the house, soaking the carpet.  With forecasts for more rain to come, the pooling had to be relieved, so the trench was the immediate solution.

I worked alongside my son-in-law and his father, but we weren’t having fun.  This was serious work, with potential for serious consequences if we failed.  The five year old and his younger brother (along with their two sisters when they could sneak out) couldn’t resist the water.  What five and four year old boys could?  Mom had given up on trying to keep them out of the water, but Grandpa was determined that they should understand the seriousness of the problem.  Why?  I couldn’t tell you, but that’s how grumpy old men are.  The happy-go-lucky attitude of the youngsters was annoying.  Anyone can tell you that misery loves company…and there’s no one more miserable than an aging man laboring in the rain at a job that seems like it may all be for nought.  As the boy replied to my reproach with unbridled joy at being able to play in the water on the ground, and more potential fun poured down from the heavens, I couldn’t help but see myself almost fifty years ago –  in the aftermath of a serious hurricane, digging little play trenches in the mud, floating sticks on the rushing current, and stomping along in the puddles; unconcerned about floods and damage to homes, or even dirty, muddy clothes.  And, I laughed with him and began to enjoy the process also.  The water flowed where we wanted, faster and faster, as the lake up by the house drained little by little.

But, our concern for the house was driven by the threat of more rain to come, so we left our playing in the water and began to move sandbags against the side of the building.  I carried my first one to the location in which it was to be placed and leaned over, dropping it into the water from a height of about three feet.  In hindsight this was not a good idea.  The resulting deluge hit me full in the face, drenching my whole body!  I had been damp before, but this was a real dousing, splashing against me with a force that was shocking for about two seconds.  Oh, but I had to laugh!  Actually, the laughter rolled from me in waves, no less profuse than the water that had hit me full force a moment ago.  I could still hear my grandson saying, “But, we like water, Grandpa!”  Still laughing, we set the remaining sandbags in place, praying as we did that they would protect against a subsequent flood, knowing that it was really out of our hands.

As we finished the job and we said our goodbyes, I slid into my car, which I had parked in the yard.  It had been backed in to reduce the distance we had to carry the sixty-pound bags as we moved them into place.  Starting the car, I put it into gear and edged forward…six inches.  The front tires began to spin immediately and the saturated ground claimed another victim.  I managed to bury the front end of the car nearly to the bumper as I attempted to move either backward or forward.  We finally got a little forward movement and my daughter and her father-in-law shoved from behind as I powered my way out of the yard, leaving two deep trenches and an amazingly muddy father-in-law behind me.  I took one look at him and myself and…you guessed it; I had to laugh!  What had started out as a ho-hum day working in the music store, had progressed to playing in the water, getting showered in the process, and ended up with us playing in the mud.  What’s not funny about that?

How’s your sense of humor?  I know many people who go through life seeing the negative side of everything.  I’m actually one of them frequently.  And, as I mentioned earlier, I’m a firm believer in sharing the misery.  If I can’t be happy, I don’t want anyone to have a good time.  But, sometimes it takes the child in us being awakened a bit to help us realize that things aren’t quite as bad as we imagine them to be.  So, lighten up and have a good laugh.  It won’t make the bad stuff go away, but it sure helps to pass the time better.  One way or another, the job can get done; either miserably or joyfully.  For those of you with real problems, it’s not easy to be joyful, but I’m reminded of the proverb that always encourages:  “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”

I haven’t talked with him yet, but I’m hoping that my son-in-law has a good sense of humor about the huge ruts in his front yard.  Maybe I could get my grandson to cheer him up…

“Life is like a blanket too short.  You pull it up and your toes rebel: you yank it down and shivers meander about your shoulders, but cheerful folks manage to draw their knees up and pass a very comfortable night.”
(Marion Howard)

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