March 16, 2017
Her laughter was what caught my attention. I'm sure there was plenty of it fifty years ago, but I don't remember it. But today it was spontaneous and heartfelt. Sitting in her chair, she threw back her head and laughed till the tears trickled down her cheeks. At lunchtime when I told of my appendectomy, she laughed again, just as she did forty years ago.
It was 1973. Our son Nathan was just a year old when we visited my folks for a clambake. The Bailey clambake was legendary: corn on the cob, dozens and dozens of steamed clams, and barbecued chicken. Dad had gone down to the fish market for the clams, bringing home at least a bushel of them, none of which went to waste. I did my part, consuming some four or five dozen, dipped in melted butter. Heavenly. Until later that night. Let me tell you, clams are much better on the way down than on the way up. Every single one of them made the round trip. After about three rounds of dry heaves, my dad came into the room once more and asked if I were finally ready to go to the hospital. I was.
Having waited on a gurney in the ER for most of the day, by five o'clock I was feeling better. The doctor came in for a last check up before sending me home. "I'd like to do a blood draw to be on the safe side," he said. My fate was sealed; my white blood count was elevated. "Appendicitis," he said. "You're not going home; you're going to the OR."
The next day as I was lying in the hospital bed with a fresh four inch incision in my abdomen, my mother; my sweet, loving mother told me of our family friend Don, who one evening drank so many Bloody Marys that he began throwing up. When he saw all the tomato juice, he thought he was bleeding to death internally. Telling the story today, it doesn't sound all that funny, but the way mom told it, I began to laugh. It went like this: "Ha, ha, ooh, ouch!" I opened my eyes through the pain. Mom was laughing at my misery! It's a Bailey thing.
This morning, mom, now 94, was laughing again. It was good to see, and tonight I am thankful for her laughter, then and now.