My dad was mischievous. Even when he was seriously ill and in treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma–he was mischievous. My twin sister and I used to take him to chemo and radiation therapy–daily. It was a difficult time, but in hindsight it was also a great time because we got a chance to get to know each other–differently.
I remember once driving my dad home from the grocery store– I had the radio on and was listening to Bon Jovi. My dad turned to me and said, “I didn’t know you liked this kind of music. There’s so much I don’t know about you.”
Later, when we got back the house, my dad started to make an elaborate lunch. My dad loved to cook. He then set the table for 4 instead of 3. “Someone else joining us?” I asked. “Oh. Just a friend I met… who speaks Italian.” At that time, I was obsessed with everything Italian. I had even learned to speak Italian in college. So, of course, I was excited. I started thinking about the fabulous possibilities of this mystery guest. “I’m gonna be the next Mrs. Ferragamo or Mrs. Gucci,” I thought to myself as I planned an elegant, yet simple wedding.
Then the doorbell rang. It was my dad’s new friend–an elderly, Ethiopian man. My dad introduced him as Mr. Wollo. “This is odd,” I mumbled. My twin sister, Akwelle, giggled. We all sat down for lunch. My dad then told this old, odd man, Mr. Wollo, all about me and my interests. “She looooves speaking Italian. She loves to cook. She loves to paint. She loves photography. Why don’t you say something in Italian, Koko?” my dad said to me as he opened his eyes up super wide. I growled something incomprehensible, even to me. Then I stormed from the table and ran up to my room and devoured a party size bag of plain M&M’s.
By the time I went back downstairs, lunch was over. Mr. Wollo was long gone. Then I yelled at my father, “What was your plan here with this crazy lunch!? Have you lost your mind? Mr. Wollo is even older than you … and… he’s… hideous!”
My dad was laughing loudly by this point. Coughing even. “You take things too seriously. Your temper tantrum was priceless, though. It was all a joke. No big deal. But if you change your mind, I am sure Mr. Wollo is free tomorrow,” my dad said as he continued laughing his biggest laugh. I was too upset to appreciate the humor.
Late last night, when I was helping my mother get to the bathroom (for the 4th time), she suddenly started laughing. She was walking very, very slowly and said, “I’m a comin’. I’m a comin’. I might be a little slow and the coffee might be cold when I get there, but I’m a comin’.” Then she really started laughing, coughing even–with tears in her eyes. By this point, she was pretending to hold up a cup of coffee as she moseyed along in her fuzzy, pink, skid-proof socks. We were both laughing!
I mention all of this really as a reminder to myself that even in difficult times–there’s still always something to laugh about. I am able to appreciate that now. Ultimately, this whole experience– with my mom’s stroke and recovery– is a chance for us to get to know each other–differently, and to keep laughing.