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Humor helps us through life’s missteps

My wife recently returned from a business trip to Alaska. When she got home, I noticed a small bruise on her arm. Of course, I asked her about it.

“I didn’t want to tell you this while I was gone because I knew you would worry, but ...” She paused after the word “but” giving my mind plenty of time to travel down all kinds of dangerous roads before continuing.

“But what?” I asked her with a nervous tone in my voice.

“I fell while I was away, but ...” she started and then paused. There was that “but” again I thought to myself, getting upset at this point.

“And?” I asked impatiently.

“I’m all right. I just got a little banged up,” she said.

Upon hearing her answer, the first thing I blurted out of my mouth in a raised voice was, “How on Earth did you fall again?”

Before continuing this story I must first tell you that Debra will take a tumble. It scares me to death every time she does, especially when I’m not around to help her. But, for some reason, she always interprets my concern as not being genuine. It is, but it may have something to do with me being scared about her health and safety and inadvertently inserting a tone into my voice. Believe me, this particular problem of mine is already on my very long list of things that I’m trying to improve.

“Well, calm down and I’ll tell you,” she said, a little irritated. I knew to be quiet and let her tell the story. I’ve learned that during the last 30 years of marriage.

Her story went like this. She was exiting a store onto a busy sidewalk when a teenage skateboarder flew past her, brushing her shoulder and causing her to fall. I wanted to say something but bit my tongue and remained quiet, albeit a little skeptical. The story gets better. The skateboarder had shoplifted something from another store and was being chased by a policeman. At that point, I had to say something. “Wait, just to be clear, you were minding your business while shopping and, out of the blue, this skateboarder flies past you, knocking you to your knees and then before you knew what was happening, a policeman runs past you on the pavement?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what happened,” she said in a matter of fact voice.

I knew there was no reason for her to lie, but I also knew this sounded vaguely familiar to something I’d seen recently in a movie. I guess I was just staring at her desperately trying to hide the blatant disbelief legibly written across my face.

“What?” she asked. “I didn’t say anything,” I answered, as I unsuccessfully tried to reenact the somewhat unbelievable scene in my mind.

“Is that all you have to say?” she asked.

“No. Were you hurt anywhere else? What did the policeman do? Did he catch the thief? Did you fill out an accident report? Is this story true?” I asked. OK, I stopped right before the last question. I really did ask the question, just not aloud.

She filled me in on the rest of the details. For most of the afternoon I tried to absorb them. Later that evening our son called. I put him on speakerphone so we could have a conference call. Before continuing, I immediately announced to Blake that he was on speaker because he has been very mad at me at times when he was unaware. I guess he considers it to be some form of phone tapping. Whatever the reason, I always get that cleared up before the conversation begins.

“What’s going on?” he asked. “Your mom just got back from Alaska and does she have a story to tell you!” I said, trying to keep from snickering. I didn’t think Debra’s fall was funny at all. I just think the bizarre way it happened was. At that point, Debra took over the conversation and I just listened carefully as Blake remained totally silent on the other end of the line. When she was finished, there was complete silence.

“Well?” Debra asked. Blake’s first question was to see if she was all right and then, trying to keep from laughing, Blake asked. “Now what happened again, Mom?” I couldn’t help it! I blurted out laughing also. Debra wasn’t amused at all at first, but then she also began to chuckle.

“I can’t believe y’all think that it’s funny,” she said. “Oh, it’s funny,” Blake said. “Not that you fell, but the way you fell.”

I, unlike Blake, was privy to Debra’s glare so just like a schoolboy who was disruptive in class, I immediately tried to wipe the smile from my face. Again there was silence. Finally, it was broken when Blake said. “I have just one question to ask you, Mom.”

“What is it, Blake?” Debra asked, assuming it was going to be about her injuries.

“Is there any surveillance footage of this incident?” Blake asked, to which we all simultaneously busted out in laughter. It wasn’t long until he had forwarded us a clip of a monkey taking an unsteady twirl and tumbling down to the ground. Under it he wrote, “Was your fall something like this, Mom?” We all had another big chuckle. Debra kept the clip and we still watch it and laugh from time to time.

From when I was a little boy, it was instilled in me to always have a sense of humor. Without it, life can sometimes be unbearable. If we laugh at our own mistakes or missteps, they seem to hurt a little less. We are living in very serious times today. We all need to remember to find some humor in life. Otherwise, getting through every day is much harder.

This quote by Henry Ward Beecher explains it well: “A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs. It’s jolted by every pebble in the road.”

No matter what we’re going through, we all need to remember that sometimes laughter can be the best medicine. And, we don’t have to look too far to realize we all need some laughter.

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Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; fax them to 474-4930; call 757-6877; e-mail to; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.