Family Matters: Falling down laughing


Before I go any farther, I must make it perfectly, crystal clear that my wife knows that I am writing about her in this week’s column.

Let’s call it “pre-approved.”

The fact is, she’s got a serious illness that most of her friends know about by now, an illness that has no known cure or treatment and which, while it is unlikely to kill her, may cause irreparable harm at some point in her life.

In fact, this particular illness (and we all acknowledge it IS an illness) has no recognizable name (at least not that we’re aware of).

My wife, bless her heart, goes into uncontrollable fights of laughter when someone she knows and loves has what we as kids used to call a “boo boo.”

Just the other day, just as I got ready to turn the corner, a cyclist had stopped but wasn't able to remove his feet from the pedal "clasps"—yes, he fell, not badly but enough that my wife began to laugh.

There's nothing personal here. Fall down and hurt yourself and my wife may very well die laughing.

Make no mistake: she is not a cruel woman. She does not enjoy the fact that people who she cares deeply about (or even strangers) have suffered these physical mishaps.

She chalks it up to nerves.

As I look back over the years (we’ll be celebrating our 35th year of marriage this fall), I recognize that this disease has been there all along, right from the day when we were courting and my Dad bumped his head on the plate glass window at a newly-opened mall as he got too close to a squeaky-clean window that he thought wasn’t there but was.

The lady who is now my dear wife spent most of the ride home clutching her side as she (and I) attempted to muffle what very nearly were “side-splitting” cries of laughter.

Dad wasn’t exactly impressed, although he did (apparently) get over it.

Mrs. Booth’s closest friends have come to tolerate this phenomenon, recognizing that this is something that is not only beyond her control, but is truly pathetic to watch.

Not all the people we come into contact with are as understanding.

For example, her mother, over on a visit from England and apparently unaware of her daughter’s infirmity one day walked out the door and misjudged the location of the front step. She wasn’t hurt (well, nothing more than a little pride and composure), but my wife nearly coughed up blood in her reaction to what she (again uncontrollably) thought was just about the funniest thing she’d ever seen.

Her mother wouldn’t speak to her for three days.

There have been other examples, all with the same results: person falls down, wife attempts to control herself to absolutely no avail, apologies all around, get wife out of there.

It’s something of a tradition. A pathetic, sick-o tradition, but still, a tradition.

Now you might be wondering (I certainly would): what would her reaction be if SHE was on the receiving end of some minor aberration involving the laws of gravity and equilibrium.

It does happen from time to time.

We, her loving family, try to compose ourselves, picking her up off the pavement and smoothing out whatever physical damage has been done.

Then we all have a good laugh.

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