No one is on fire right now

As I stand in the kitchen, the teen boy glides by on his sister’s scooter. The teen girl clomps by on roller skates, in time for her brother to playfully clothesline her, dropping her to the floor.

“I’m on the ground again.” she announces as the tiny dog skitters by in a tiny Chewbacca costume. Maura’s being the calm one, sitting on the couch, listening to U2’s “Songs of Innocence” on her iPod, her head bopping in time to the music.

Tiny dog doesn't care to be Chewbacca btw
Tiny dog doesn’t care to be Chewbacca btw

This is my life. My crazy absurd ridiculous life.

“You guys have such a great sense of humor.” we’ve been told. Usually preceded or followed by “despite all your challenges”.

What can I say? It’s a coping skill I’ve developed my entire life and have passed down to my kids. Life can be ridiculous and stupid, but it can be ridiculous and great as well. I mean, when one of your hilarious family tales is the time you all sat on the side of the very narrow road on the west coast of Ireland for three hours because someone (me) hit a rock and ripped apart both tires on one side? Oh yeah, good times. We had Twizzlers. It didn’t rain on us. We had a nice view of the Aran Islands. It wasn’t all bad.

I think this coping skill is either genetic, or learned through my grandfather. Probably the latter. The man would tell the funniest stories of WWII, never letting us kids know the horrors he saw, just the funny or the human sides of things, and the good of every day people. After the war he became a cop, and there were more hilarious tales from his police time. Tales that honestly, we kids probably shouldn’t have repeated – like the one where the old lady died on the toilet, and my grandfather and his partner had to remove the body from the apartment but weren’t allowed to bend the body flat, so they moved the body onto a kitchen chair, covered it with a sheet and took her down the elevator…only to have it stop on a floor, and another resident eyed them leaning on the sheet covered corpse chair, and saying “I’ll wait.”

Seriously people, this is how I grew up, listening to stories like that and more. And it wasn’t just Grandpa’s side – Grandma’s parents were undertakers, so there were stories of corpses sitting up in coffins, roller skating in the (empty) morgue on hot days, and my favorite – how Grandma as a teen smashed her finger in a door, and the nail turned black and fell off, so Grandma then kept the blackened shriveled up nail in  her coin purse to every so often bring out and scare her friends with.

Yes, humor is our coping skill.

It was never “Suck it up kid, people have it worse, how dare you complain!”. It was more “Okay, this is dumb, but hey, at least we’re not on fire, so that’s something!”

And that’s kind of how I live my life.

Yes, Maura has special needs. She is cognitively disabled. She will be dependent on people her entire life. But hey, she’s actually fun most of the time, and she’s actually quite healthy, so you know, it’s not that bad.

Sure, I have anxiety. Sometimes, I find it hard to drive in the rain (which really sucks considering I live in the Pacific North Wet, pun intended) but at least I live in a time where there’s medication for such things, so that most days, I can drive in the rain! And sleep at night! And think about my daughter’s future without a panic attack! Hooray for happy pills!

Yeah, our lifestyle is a bit of a crazy one, but hey, at this moment everyone seems happy enough, and no one is on fire this week, so we’re doing good!

Maybe it’s a form of denial – I don’t think so. I’m not denying that life can be hard, and full of hard work. I make it a point to acknowledge some of the suckier aspects, accept them, and then put them in a corner. And then I find something to smile about. Because I know that it could always be worse. I know that in many ways, we’re lucky. I know that sometimes, you have to find the funny in a situation in order to survive it. Remember the good times and know there will always be more. Because in this circus of a family, we will definitely have more fun times, even if we don’t mean to.