I Smile Because If I didn’t, You’d Ask Me Why….
Norman Wisdom. The Fool. The sad, funny fool. Norman Wisdom, my comedy hero.
I vividly remember crying big heaving sobs of wet tears at the age of eight watching Trouble In Store one Sunday afternoon on our big old lumbering black & white television as he sang Don’t Laugh at Me ‘Cause I’m a fool.
I suddenly had an affinity, I wanted Norman to be my friend. I knew I would be able to look after him, to make him feel loved and happy, just like I loved my battered old teddy bear. I couldn’t understand how anyone could hold such sadness in their heart, but be so incredibly funny at the same time.
At the age of fifty, I sadly found out the how and the why.
In the space of a few short years, I lost both my mum and dad to cancer and whilst still coming to terms with being an overgrown, ditzy orphan, I was diagnosed with a painful, life changing disease that eventually took away the career I loved.
Suddenly I had two options:
a) Walk around with the cares of the world on my shoulders, weeping and wailing with my now ever developing jowls, courtesy of the menopause and old age, knocking my knees and tripping me up in Morrisons Fruit & Veg aisle
b) Smile, laugh and be the fool whilst designating the melancholy and hurt to a little box, carefully tied with a mental bow, and pushing it to the back of my mind as in truth, nobody loves a misery-guts.
‘A‘ wasn’t much of an option as I actually shop in Sainsbury’s and vanity made me horrified at the thought of anyone seeing my jowls swinging from side to side knocking the organic carrots from the carefully stacked display.
So ‘B‘ it was….. and that’s how I live my life. Everyday I count the blessings I have rather than notching up the negatives. I’m happy, fulfilled and nutty as a fruitcake!
I manage my condition with powerful medication that prohibits alcohol. Yep, no Gin, vodka, wine. My saviour for so many social outings was banned, and in doing so, my false confidence went with it but on the plus side, no hangovers or photo’s of me I’d rather my granddaughters didn’t see.
I have this nasty habit of proving my hypermobility after a couple of vodka’s by throwing my legs behind my head. All good fun until I realised I’d left my stiletto’s on and the heels had jammed behind my neck making it impossible to extricate myself. There were many occasions I was left rocking backwards and forwards like my nan’s old mahogany chair whilst everyone howled with laughter….
….and that’s where the how came into being. Their laughter lifted my spirits. It made me feel happy too, and I suddenly realised how he did it. His character Norman Pitkin’s heart was filled with this special fluttery feeling because of the laughter and I wanted to feel like that too.
This past eighteen months have been amazing for me, to have my book Handcuffs taken up and published, was my dream come true.
But it has also been a difficult time too. Sadly, my step-dad, who has been a father to me for over 40 years, was diagnosed with Alzheimers. It is a dreadful illness that destroys a little of him every single day and at the same time my health has deteriorated, giving me constant excruciating, unmanageable pain. I could be sad, downhearted, miserable but that’s not me. I have to see the positives.
When I first saw my GP he called it ‘non specific back pain’ and told me to live with it. I completely forgot where I was and promptly replied “Well it’s feckin’ specific to me mate!” I don’t think he appreciated my life observation or the slamming of his door as I left. I was actually gutted as my display of pique and the impact I had wanted in hearing the wooden door hit the frame with force was lost in the slow squeak of the pneumatic safety door closer which completely ruined my dramatic exit.
Six months down the line I have now found myself walking around like a geriatric wearing extra-large, thigh chaffing incontinence pants. Each time the pain travels down my legs I either howl, groan, ooof or uuuugghh, which makes me sound like I’ve got Tourette’s. Not to disappoint, I’m currently researching swear words to make a greater impact in Sainsbury’s on a Saturday amongst the Derby & Joan brigade.
This week, after the results of an MRI scan, I am finally being referred to a Neuro specialist. This has led me to two great emotions.
Elation that finally something might be done so I can live a normal, pain free life. I want to be able to care for my Dad without feeling a failure due to my limitations, I want to run and play with my beautiful granddaughters, I want to have a proper nights sleep and I want to have lovely, romantic walks with my hubby, and it would be amazing to wear a pair of stiletto’s again without looking like Dick Emery in drag as I totter along the path.
And then there was the sheer panic. Knickers, or thongs or G-strings or strips of nothing. I would have barely a gusset between me, a backless surgical gown and some poor unsuspecting specialist with what was currently stuffed in my underwear drawer.
I would just have to go shopping.
Leaving the GP’s surgery with a prescription for some miracle drug called Gabapentin clutched in my hot, sweaty hand, I planned a trip to Primark to see if they had any knickers that actually had a bum in them. It was also to be my first day of Gabapentin ingestion.
Oh dearie me, that definitely wasn’t one of my better ideas.
High as kite, completely bombed out of my brain, I took my dilated pupils into Primark for a wander. Finding the Underwear department I suddenly and involuntarily, let out a very loud squeal of utter delight. I was a child in a toy store. As much as I wanted to stop the ridiculous display of elation I was currently experiencing, I couldn’t, Gabapentin had me in its grip, I was possessed. Hubby, who had taken to hiding behind the Onesies and PJ’s on a nearby stand, cringed with embarrassment as I went on a verbal rampage trying knickers on over my jeans and throwing a rainbow of colours and lace into the air.
Twenty minutes later I stood in the queue at the cash desk, several pairs of mahooosive knickers in my basket and one pair hanging from my head. This had occurred purely due to the sudden desire to dance to the piped music with a cerise pink firkler draped over my pony-tail which had then become wedged under a hair clip.
In my floaty state I didn’t care. I shoved the basket towards the cashier, my heart jumping with joy with each bleep of the scanned panties. Suddenly remembering the pair on my head, I thought, what the hell, in for a penny, in for a pound. What’s an extra pair between friends.
Much to the horror of Cashier No. 4, I promptly slammed my head down on the counter, proffering the knickers and their price tag for scanning whilst my left ear got jammed in the security tag removal hole.
Two hours later, Gabapentin fading from my system, I was suitably chastised by hubby, who was currently making a meal of untangling the laced edged frillies from my hair. I began to ponder my disgraceful behaviour. I wanted to be embarrassed and cross, I wanted to feel horrified, and I suppose deep down I did, but there was also an overwhelming desire to giggle.
It couldn’t happen to anyone, because it would always happen to me. I was the proverbial fool, the idiot, the dipstick, the dork….
….but do you know what. I actually didn’t care. Whilst I was laughing and being a fool, I was hoping others would giggle too, and in turn any pain, hurt or sadness I felt would be forgotten because their laughter made me happy. In truth, a smile disguises everything.
Some days it is easy, on other days I do struggle a little, but I will always find time to find something funny in life. I wouldn’t survive without that hope, that glimmer of humour in every day situations, it’s my safe place, my hiding place for my heart.