Remind me to laugh when I can’t!


This column has been rumbling deep in my spirit for a long time.

When I came around the bend at the Court House and looked up at the broken clock, I knew it was time to write this.

I’ve looked at that clock a hundred times over the years as I made the bend in downtown Pagosa. I have always checked my time and set my pace, and I depended on it. The clock is still there for everyone to see, but it doesn’t work like it used to.

Today, I laugh at things, but there will be a day when I might be crying about them. When that day comes, remind me to laugh when I can’t.

A few years ago, we saw one of our older dear friends who used to be a pillar in this community. He was strong and fit and was from the old school; he knew how to work and thought everyone else should know how, also.

He was at the football game. When the game was over, he asked us if we knew where he lived?

We told him, “Yes.” Then our son-in-law directed him how to get home.

I told our son-in-law later that we should have insisted on taking him home. One of us could have followed in our vehicle. We need to remember that, if it ever happens again. Even when people resist in their pride, we must see what they struggle with. If it ever happens to us, I am counting on the good people in Pagosa to help us out.

When I heard about the young son of one of our friends passing away a few days before Christmas, I was heartsick for them, and I still am. I can’t imagine what they are feeling or going through. I immediately started praying for them. Their son lived a good witness and a good life. There is no way we can help the family’s grief, but we can pray and be there with a kind word.

When our neighbor, who was a strong, independent man became sick, his family hid the keys to the car. He was a danger to himself. I remember when they told me how angry he became because they took the keys from him.

I thought to myself then, “This man was a man who took charge, he gave the orders. He was a colonel in the service. He was a proud man. He doesn’t know how to be helpless. No wonder he was angry.”

A couple of years ago, Al was stuck in the road, and a neighbor honked impatiently at him.

She yelled in anger, “Al Slade, go home where you belong.”

When I heard it, I was sad and sick inside. It broke my heart that she would talk that way to My Sweet Al.

I told our children later, “She is young and independent. She hasn’t lived life yet. There will be a day…”

My Sweet Al said he had a dream, he was lost and he didn’t know how to get home. He said, “It was the scariest thing I’ve ever felt.”

I told him, “You’ve got to know that you have good people around you, and we won’t let anything happen to you. You’ve got to trust us that we will take care of you.”

So, Al and I, along with our youngest daughter, went to the high school for one of the sporting events. Al missed a couple of turns to get there and we reminded him to turn here and there.

When we arrived, we got out and I said to him sweetly, “Honey, do you have the keys?”

He quipped back, “I drove here. Of course I have the keys, why would you ask me that?”

I said to him, “If you are going to lose your mind, you can’t be angry about it.” I looked at our daughter and we chuckled.

Al had a comeback. “You’re the one that is making me lose my mind. You’re driving me nuttier than a fruit cake.”

I laughed and said, “Of course, I’m going to get the blame for that one, too.”

Then the three of us laughed and walked into the high school as if nothing happened.

A week ago, a car stopped abruptly in front of me, and I ran off the side of the road on U.S. 160. A family in an old truck stopped to help, and then a sheriff deputy stopped. The people in the truck wanted to know what they could do to help. The deputy gave me a ride to where I was going.

I made idle chitchat with him as he drove, I said, “There are good people in this town, just like the people in the truck.”

He said, “And some bad ones, too.”

“I guess it’s all about the circle of people you run in.”

My son-in-law and Al went back to pull out the car. Al said people were honking and yelling as they pulled the car out of the snow bank. Apparently they were blocking the road and the people were in a hurry to get somewhere and too busy to wait.

It’s kind of like that old clock on the courthouse wall: It’s been there since I can remember and I’ve always counted on it being there. It isn’t functioning like it used to and is just taking up space. Did someone forget to wind it? Is everyone too busy to fix it? Or, maybe no one notices it anymore, and no one cares.

I care.

Every time I drive through downtown Pagosa, I still look up to check the time, knowing the hands are not moving, but wishing it was still going. Maybe it’s like some of us who have been around for a long time; we are still here, but we aren’t moving like we used to and others think we are taking up space.

Final brushstroke: I love this town and the people in this town. We all struggle in those hard places, and some hurt so deeply we can’t help them. Some of us are still standing, but we aren’t functioning like we used to. No one is exempt from life. Remind me to keep laughing when I can’t.

Artist’s quote

“Among the things you can give and still keep are your word, a smile, and a grateful heart” — Zig Ziglar, author and speaker.

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This story was posted on February 14, 2013.