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Sid’s Sense- Lingo & Laughter

Use humor and the right vocabulary to snap tension, ignite fellowship, and cope with life’s stings.

View previous posts in this series, Sid’s Sense.

Around the year 2000, my mother was diagnosed with a progressive illness called multiple system atrophy. It started with severe bouts of hypotension (low blood pressure) and progressed to the point she could not walk or take care of herself. It was heartbreaking. My father, her husband of 52 years, knew this might just be the biggest fight he would ever endure. Determined to find a way to cope, ease the stress, and remain proactive in her healthcare, he chose his words carefully.

Words have power

Your mind hears the words you are saying. Change the words. You change your story.

My parents’ situation became a “challenge” rather than a “problem.” When my mother couldn’t leave her chair to go to the kitchen to eat, dinner in the living room became a “picnic” with a white tablecloth over a card table. When my Dad bought her this mega-fast electronic scooter, it became her “Harley” (okay, that was my term).

I have demonstrated throughout this series the importance of wording your questions carefully. Sid uses this example often:

“May I smoke while praying?” asked the clergyman.

“No, you may not,” replied his superior.  The clergyman went to another superior.

“May I pray while smoking?”  Permission to smoke was granted.

Your attitude is your most priceless possession.

Point your attitude in the right direction and behaviors fall in line. And results follow behaviors.

There is an explanation for my father’s charisma. It is his positive attitude turned inside out for the world to see.

When my mother’s health was failing, my Dad pushed the worry, fear and sadness to the perimeter of his mind. Like a planet far away, from a distance the view was more manageable. Up close he insulated his attitude with humor and positive vocabulary.

By giving away his positive attitude to my family during this frightful time, he was able to keep his own secure. The tougher it was to stay positive, the more he gave away.

Mission Achievable

There is always a way to steer helplessness.

When my parents could not control the disease that was slowly killing my mom, my Dad focused on something he could control. He defined it and pursued it.

His goal was to keep my mother comfortable. If he could do that, he was accomplishing the mission.

“Are you comfortable right now?” he would ask my mom daily, even hourly. If her answer was “Yes,” they both felt victorious.

By focusing on any achievable outcome, especially when it takes effort on your part to achieve it, is a great way to stay positive amidst dire circumstances.

Mayo the Dog

[Vignette by Sid]

In July 2002, Lorraine and I drove to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Her illness was progressing rapidly. Looking for a way to relieve her stress and mine, I saw in a dress shop window a beautiful stuffed animal–a Saint Bernard dog made in France.  Overcoming the shop owner’s resistance to sell a promotional item with a hefty offer, I made the purchase, strapped the dog in a wheelchair, named it Mayo, and wheeled it from doctor’s appointment to doctor’s appointment.  It brought laughs throughout the clinic, the likes of which nobody had ever seen at that prestigious institution.  

More laughter erupted when a Mayo doctor placed a stethoscope on Mayo’s chest and a tongue depressor in his mouth. My camera flashed, photo souvenirs for the children and grandchildren of doctors who obviously knew the healing power of humor.

The hotel parking attendant got into our car, saw Mayo through the rear view mirror, jumped in fright thinking the dog was real. When he realized it wasn’t real, he laughed hysterically. We received the best valet service you can imagine during our visit to the clinic.

It is amazing the special attention you receive when you make people laugh and smile.

Mayo couldn’t save my mother’s life, but he sure had a way of encouraging those that could to do their best.

This experience at Mayo Clinic provoked Sid to start a humor library in our town. With laughter comes healing.  Everywhere he goes, nearly everyone he meets, is now greeted with a singing doll. Here is my collection:):

Each one sings a happy tune!

Seek Creative Solutions

Following my mother’s death, my father had to learn how to do everything for himself. The only buttons my Dad knew how to push were on a typewriter. Now he had to learn how to do his own laundry, run the dishwasher, cook, and grocery shop. (Yes, my mom spoiled him!).

He had the toughest time coping with the loss of my mom in the early evening hours. Rather than feeling sorry for himself he put these lessons above into practice.

He defined himself as “lonely” during the hours from 4pm to 7pm. The term “lonely” acknowledged what he was feeling. It was also a problem that could be solved. He had power over his loneliness. The antidote to loneliness is being in good company.

Had he defined himself as “depressed,” he could have spent thousands of dollars on therapy or wallowed at home in his sadness. Not Sidney.

He cured his loneliness by going to the gym every single day at 4pm to get some exercise. He invited friends and loved ones to dinner several nights a week always joking it was the best “therapy” he could ask for.

Meet Timothy, the Butler:)

AND HE BOUGHT TIMOTHY. (I’m still laughing about this creative remedy!)

He first met “The Butler” at a friend’s house having dinner (between 4 and 7pm, of course!). A full-size wax figure dressed in a real tuxedo holding a serving tray. The entire night he couldn’t keep his eyes off him.

After convincing the man who made “The Butler” to come out of retirement to make an exact duplicate for him, “Timothy” arrived several weeks later.

When my Dad leaves his bedroom to come to the kitchen, Timothy scares the loneliness right out of him!

If you are new to the Sid’s Sense series, I appreciate that you want to call me about the warning signs of senility. If you’ve been hang in’ around awhile, then you’re shaking your head (up and down) and smiling saying,

“Sounds just like something Sid would do.”

Stay tuned for the conclusion of Sid’s Sense, written by Sid himself, Portrait of a Passionate Life.

"When Bob Hope was near death, the 100-year-old comedian was asked where he wanted to be buried and he said, ‘Surprise me’."

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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. DonnaK #

    This post brings me smiles, sadnesses to recall and then back to my own determined optimism. And while Sid’s Sense can write volumes about his many step-by-step trials in the courtroom, maybe one day he can entertain us with his trials of housework–perhaps starting with amount of laundry soap in the washer. My Dad did the same thing back in 1945 when Mom was gone for a full week. Anyway, he put way-y-y-y too much uncooked rice in a pot of water on the back burner of stove while he went to the field. Said he ate rice for a full week. Sid, I imagine you mopped, swabbed and then mopped some more your overflowing washing machine. Move over Erma Bombeck, I smell a story brewing here and it begins with men and their measuring devices!

    June 20, 2012
  2. Linda Glass #

    I had trouble trying to figure out if my tears came from laughter or sadness while reading this. Thanks, Susan, for fitskitz!!!!

    June 22, 2012
    • Jean #

      It’s been a long time since I had any contact with your dad, but I always remember him as a wonderful, kind and sensitive man. And your mom was amazing too. Thanks so much for sharing these inspiring stories!

      June 22, 2012
  3. Brianna Ortbals #

    I’m glad I read this and am aware of Timothy before he scares me to death the next time I’m in Papa’s house! Haha

    June 25, 2012

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