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Humor MeI'm Over the Hill
By Barbara Johnson
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Barbara Johnson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneNOT THE WAY I PLANNED IT
I'm ready to meet my Maker ... but He's apparently tied up with a previous engagement
If you know anything about me, you're aware that I attract strange and funny incidents the way refrigerators attract magnets. Now that I'm teetering on the tightrope between senior and senility, these things seem to be happening more frequently. For instance, during the week before my birthday last December, my phone rang, and the conversation went something like this:
"This is Fred from Real-Life Prostheses, and ..."
"Excuse me? Who is this again?"
"Fred, from Real-Life ..."
"I think you have the wrong number, Fred."
"I just wanted to let you know that your new breasts aren't ready yet."
"My new what?"
"Your husband called and asked us if we could do a rush job and have your new breasts ready before Christmas. The other guy told him yes and promised to have them ready tomorrow, but then we realized you were an extra-large, and since that takes longer, they have to be special ordered. I didn't know the other guy told your husband yes; he shouldn't have done that without checking with me. I'm so sorry."
I've had occasional memory lapses lately, so Itook a quick glance down at my chest to make sure nothing was missing.
"Fred, I ..."
"Oh dear. He probably wanted it to be a surprise. He said you were going somewhere special for Christmas, and he knew you would want to look your best."
"Fred, I'm so sorry to argue with you, but I really don't think my husband called you. He died three years ago, and I just checked-yes, I still have my own breasts. And by the way, they're not what you would call extra-"
"Oh, my! Oh, dear! I am so sorry. I can't imagine how this happened. I ... well ... I. Uh, have a nice day."
See how good God is? On any given day, He might have a stranger call you up unexpectedly and give you a laugh that lasts for weeks, if not for a lifetime. So the laughter lasts longer-and may reoccur sporadically as you share the story with friends. That's what happened when I told my pals about the phone call ... and the next week, when they showed up with my birthday cake, it was shaped like, well, let's just say it was anatomically correct ... or at least anatomically suggestive!
Hunting Down the Humor
When you get to be my age-and if you're reading this book, you're probably headed that direction-you've probably had lots of opportunities to laugh at life's silliness. Of course, sometimes the stuff that happens to us as we move through the maturity maze doesn't seem all that funny at the time. Sometimes you have to hunt down the humor, pick it out of the problem pileup, or crank it up from the cesspool. But if you look hard enough and live long enough, you'll find it. As Carol Burnett reportedly said, "Humor is tragedy plus time." And if you're extra lucky, over the decades you've developed just the slightest gift for exaggeration, so that when you tell your friends about funny things that God has sent your way, you find yourself improving on the humor of God Himself.
On the other hand, things that used to be funny when I was younger aren't all that hilarious anymore. For instance, my sister, Janet, used to play the piano at a nursing home to entertain the residents, and we loved to laugh together about the optimistic old lady who bragged to Janet, "I wake up every morning and I know who I am, and I say, 'Praise the Lord!'"
Yes, that used to be funny. These days, however, it's losing a bit of its punch. Oh, I know who I am most of the time. It's your name I can't remember. Sometimes I'll have to run through my entire mental Rolodex, calling a friend by every name that comes to mind-from former pets and automobiles to present-day helpers and relatives-before I finally arrive at the right one.
Now, I have to admit this isn't really a new problem. I can remember how our boys used to roll their eyes as I was reciting roll call, trying to get to the right name for the culprit who needed an emergency lecture: "Bill! Steven! Whumphie! Tim! Barney! Spot! David! ... You there, chasing your brother with the scissors! Stop it right now!"
As I've grown older, the problem has gotten worse, especially with all the abbreviations and acronyms used in modern life. Lately I've sometimes felt like an English teacher who's struggling to make sense of a foreign alphabet. I might mean to report on a friend's female problems requiring hormone replacement therapy that worried her about someday needing life-saving intervention but instead say that she had frequent parcel deliveries along with worries about the war in Iraq and hoped she would never need an accountant. So it comes out as, "She had such bad UPS, she thought she needed to take WMD but worried it might affect her heart and cause her to need CPA."
I'd like to blame my tendency toward confused communication on the fact that-maybe you've heard-I was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor back in 2001. But the fact is, I've always been just a little bit absentminded, so I'm not sure the brain tumor has any- thing to do with it. (When the doctor told me what the problem was, I thought, Wouldn't you know? All these years I've wished my brain would GROW and instead I get a GROWTH!)
For me, having brain cancer has been one long headache. People treat you differently when they find out you have cancer, especially people who are acquaintances rather than close friends. They look at you differently, and a lot of the time, I don't like the unspoken words I see in their eyes: Poor you. You've got cancer. You're going to die.
It's made me want to follow another cancer patient's urges and wear a T-shirt that says:
Yes, I have cancer. Yes, I'm going to die. And so are you.
Cancer has taken away my freedom to travel and my ability to work as a conference speaker, which I've enjoyed for more than thirty years. I admit that I've shed many tears about my situation. Yes, indeed. I've endured plenty of anguish during the last half decade, which has sent me crying to God, complaining about the way He was bringing my life to a close.
But then ... unexpectedly ... I kept on living! Imagine that. I've spent my life looking forward to heaven, and just when I thought I had caught a glimpse of the pearly gates, what do you know? God wasn't ready for me yet. Either that or, as the old saying goes, the more you complain, the longer He lets you live.
So I've vowed to stop complaining (or at least try to stop). Instead, I hope to follow that old maxim that says,
Live each day as though it's your last ... and someday you'll be right!
My Goal: Giving You a Giggle
So, whenever I can manage it, I dry my tears, blow my nose, and find something to do-and especially, something to laugh about. I can no longer travel to huge arenas around the country, sharing my story and relishing the sound of the audience's laughter ringing in my ears, but I can try my best to give you a giggle or two by sharing the funny stuff friends, family, and readers still send me every day in the mail. And I can ridicule the silly moments I've experienced on my way to senior citizenry-like the phone call from the breast-maker man and the resulting anatomically correct birthday cake.
The best laughter, of course, is the kind that's shared. As I've put this little book together with the help of a couple of friends, I've imagined you joining in with us as we have chuckled our way through the assorted stories, jokes, cartoons, and calamities we've compiled in these pages. We've tried hard to find where all these little jewels of joy came from, but where no source is given, we do not know it.
For me, one of the funniest things about this volume is that, if I'm not mistaken, it is my fourth "last book" since the brain tumor was diagnosed. Everyone, myself included, assumed I'd soon be moving on to heaven, and my friends at W Publishing Group-my longtime publisher-wanted to send me off with glorious fanfare, so they encouraged me to write about my hilarious (and heart-wrenching) brain-tumor experiences. That book, published in 2002, was Plant a Geranium in Your Cranium.
We all waited awhile, and nothing happened. Well, all sorts of things happened, but none of them ushered me into eternity, so in 2003 we did another book, Humor Me: The Geranium Lady's Funny Little Book of Big Laughs.
In 2004, because I'd already hung around Earth way longer than anyone expected, we confidently put together Laughter from Heaven, sure that when it landed in readers' hands it would seem like a little gift of glorious giggles fanned down by me from heaven, where I was happily waving my angel wings.
Apparently there was a waiting list for wings.
I decided since I wasn't moving on to perpetual retirement, I might as well get back to work, so last year's book was Humor Me, I'm Your Mother, a collection of funny stuff for anyone who is a mother-or has a mother.
Frankly, it's a little embarrassing, after all these enthusiastic farewells, to still be down here gathering goofy stuff when I thought I'd be singing with the saints by now. But here it is 2007, and I'm still living, still laughing, and still growing older, so once again, I'm loading up another book with lots of laughter and sending it out to you, hoping it will encourage you to search out all the fun and joy hidden in each new day God grants you on our beautiful-and boundlessly funny-Planet Earth. I don't know about you, but I now plan to live happily to be one hundred-or die trying!
OVER THE HILL HEARTWARMERS
I'm not old. I'm chronologically gifted.
* * *
Lynda came to have lunch the other day in the assisted-living facility where I've been living lately. As we were sipping our soup, a bald-headed man, one of the residents, walked by and said, "Boy, you girls are lookin' good today. You're the youngest-looking ones here!" My friend smiled coyly and sat up a little straighter, enjoying the man's attention. But I'd heard it all before. I rolled my eyes and said, "Don't pay any attention to him. He's ninety-two; everyone looks young to him!" Lynda laughingly shared the story with her long-time friend, Jan, who's been single for a while. She listened to Lynda's description and said, "Well, clean him up and send him on over!" -BJ
* * *
I don't really care if my hearing's going. The only thing people say to me anymore is, "Have you taken your medicine?" -Gene Perret
* * *
By the time you find greener pastures ... you can't climb the fence!
When you get to be my age, you're well acquainted with pain. The challenge-and for me it's a big one-is not to be a pain to others. Some days you're the banana. Other days you're the blender. Some days you're the bug. Other days you're the windshield. Some days you're the pigeon. Other days you're the statue. Some days you're the dog. Other days you're the fire hydrant. Some days you're the salmon. Other days you've got salmonella. Some day you're the colonoscopy technician. Other days you're the ... No, let's not go there. -BJ
* * *
I'm not old. I'm just overdue for eternity.
* * *
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. (Isaiah 46:4)
Excerpted from Humor Me by Barbara Johnson Copyright © 2007 by Barbara Johnson. Excerpted by permission.
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