“If you smile at me I will understand,
‘cause that is something everybody
everywhere does in the same language.”
-Crosby, Stills & Nash
My mother had one of those smiles. The kind that stops time and fills a room with a contagious zany light. It wasn’t quite the way it looked as the way she used it that I loved the most. Don’t get me wrong, my mother was drop dead gorgeous. You just couldn’t miss her when she was around. Trust me. She could reach you with her smile in a way that went far beyond a pretty picture in a magazine.
She may have had a bit of some undiagnosed OCD. She was the type who’d clean the house from top to bottom before a cleaning lady arrived. She vacuumed her comforter on her bed and would grab your cereal bowl out of your hands before you finished just to clear the counter because she didn’t like clutter. In our house there was a lot of chaos. A LOT. Cleaning and organizing made her feel like she could control something. No matter how crazy it all got, and boy did it get crazy- she never stopped laughing. She’d make a lewd joke at the doctor’s office right before I had to get a shot or a spinal tap (don’t ask). She’d whisper something in my ear about nuns and priests in church because she knew I didn’t want to be there to get me giggling and lighten the mood. Before the days of cell phones, “the gram”, and selfies we’d get creative together. We’d blare music and take pictures climbing trees in weird hats and dresses with painted on mustaches. No matter where or when, my mom knew how to have fun. Towards the very end of her life, she was about to attend a rehab facility in Pennsylvania and had me in tears laughing so hard on the phone the night before she was supposed to go. She mentioned amongst other things, that her greatest fear about being stuck in that place for 28 days was having to share a room with a complete stranger and that this roomie would inevitably have to use the shared bathroom after her in the morning when she had “uncontrollable shooting diarrhea.” I told her she’d probably end up like Sandra Bullock in “28 Days” and have so many friends there she wouldn’t know what to do with herself and she’d be the bell of the ball. As it turned out, she never stepped foot inside that clinic and there were many people that never got to experience the likes of Joy’s laughter while sobering up. Unlucky them. That turned out to be our last conversation. I told her I loved her and she did the same. She sang me a couple lines from an Elton’s “Tiny Dancer” and that was that.
You never know when it’s the last laugh or the last smile. That’s one of the things I got from losing Joy. I battle with the loss of that giant life force every day but I’m always looking for a laugh and I can feel her smile in the middle of my chest. I was so lucky to have experienced such joy as a kid with a mom like that. Not everyone gets that. I wanted to share a few words on smiles, laughs and joy this week, since it’s Mother’s day on Sunday. A smile can go a long way and if you do it enough, it can stay in someone’s heart forever. Let’s all put our phones away and smile at each other this week in the name of JOY.