My Uncle Andy recently turned 90, and it was hard to imagine what a guy would like for his 90th birthday.
At 90, getting a lot of new stuff doesn’t sound very appealing. Andy is in the process of getting rid of stuff, a job made more challenging by the fact that neither he nor his wife, Bea, have any children to fob the stuff off on. Andy and Bea live in the farmhouse where my mom was raised, and we were stumped when the subject of a 90th birthday present came up.
“What does Andy like?” I asked my mom.
“Bad jokes,” my mom answered.
“How about a book of bad jokes? We could make one as a family.”
So I put out the call for bad jokes on the family Facebook page. At first, I heard nothing. I don’t know many jokes, and I was worried I’d have to make a joke book by myself in time for the party in the small country church near the old farmhouse.
Then I got an email from my cousin Sarah.
What do you a call a deer with one eye?
A one-eyed deer.
What do you call a deer with no eyes?
No eye deer!
And the floodgates were opened.
Q: What’s brown and sticky?
A: A stick.”
Who’s bigger? Mr. Bigger or Mr. Bigger’s Baby?
Mr. Bigger’s Baby! He’s just a little bigger.
I was flooded with jokes. I got shaggy dog jokes, knock-knock jokes, and Ole and Lena jokes. I got lots of jokes about farms since Andy is a retired farmer.
What did the cow say to the calf? “It’s pasture bedtime.”
Before it was over, I had a book filled with terrible jokes sent in by Andy’s family. I was glad we had done it, glad my family had come through, glad they’d all chipped in to give Andy something to laugh about on the occasion of his 90th.
The New Year is upon us, and I don’t think I’m the only one who needs a little more to laugh about. I usually have no trouble finding the upside, but lately there seems to be more bad news than I can process in any given day. It’s easy to believe, looking out on the gray weather and reading the dire news, that this year might not bring all the good things I hope for, that this year might let me down, that there might not be as much to look forward to as there has been in past years.
And I guess that’s where bad jokes come in.
Andy broke his leg not too long ago and is still using a walker to get around. We wonder how long he and Bea will be able to stay at the old farmhouse, outside of town on a lonely country road. But as I sat there watching Bea and Andy laughing at terrible jokes and eating birthday cake, I realized they understood all of this.
Because most of what makes a good year good, and a bad year bad, has nothing to do with the big picture. Most of it has to do with how I feel and behave in any given day, at any given moment. And sometimes, all that is needed to change that moment is a reason to laugh. Sometimes all that is needed is to laugh for no reason at all.
People say they pick their nose, but I feel I was born with mine.
For no reason at all, that made my day.
Till next time,
The New Year is when we take stock.
In some cases, like my husband Peter’s, this is literal. He keeps an inventory of our canned goods and chastises me if I mess up his inventory.
“Did you mark off the black beans?”
“You have to mark it off on the list or I won’t know how many I have.”
I am less concerned about our supply of canned goods in the New Year and more concerned about stockpiles closer to home – on my hips, for example.
I had gotten out of the habit of weighing myself, and I decided this was probably unwise. So I started weighing myself in the mornings. Monitoring my weight is far more disconcerting than losing a can of beans. I cannot see how I can go out to dinner, eat a heavy plate of curry, and lose a pound and a half, only to eat almost nothing the next day and gain it back. My weight rises and falls like a roller coaster.
This morning I noticed that I had inexplicably gained two pounds overnight. I looked at myself in the mirror. I looked fine. In fact, I thought I was looking particularly fit. The mirror and I decided the scale was crazy.
The New Year is also an appropriate time to recognize that not all that is lost will be found. It is tempting to believe that the picture frame mysteriously lost in the move will reappear, or that we will find that kitchen gadget that Peter and I are both convinced we used to own, but no longer seem to. The New Year is a good time to just give up and get a new frame and a new gadget.
The same is true of socks. Socks are like kidnapping victims. If they are not recovered within 48 hours, the odds of them ever returning to their mate are substantially reduced. After three months, as in all True Crime stories, the trail has gone cold.
But then there will be that one (as there was, just the other day) miraculously recovered from beneath the mattress of the bed who was joyfully reunited with its mate because I had not quite abandoned hope. It’s things like this that keep me holding on to single socks far too long.
At any rate, I am trying to keep track of things a little better this year. I even bought a daily planner. I didn’t have one last year because I remembered what happened to the one I bought in 2020. It had a flurry of events penned in the first two months, then it sat looking at me accusingly from the corner of my desk, unused for the rest of the year.
“What are we doing today?”
“Same as yesterday. Nothing.”
Remembering to go out on the front stoop to talk to the neighbor and her dog did not require an entry in my planner.
So I held off on buying one last year and got along just fine. This year, I gave in, and I am busily filling my new planner with things I’d like to do and accomplish.
It may all be foolish. Perhaps this year will be as uneventful as the last two. Still, there is hope. And I guess that is the point of taking a New Year inventory.
It’s the time of year when I imagine life being a little different and somehow a little better. It’s the time of year when I make sure my inventory of hopes and dreams is stocked to capacity.
Till next time,