On love, loss, and Joey

I usually have no problem finding something to laugh at in any given situation. It is my default personality. I laugh when I’m happy. I laugh when I’m nervous. I laugh when I’m confused. I laugh when someone offers unwelcomed advice or gossip. I laugh when I discover that a large shake at McDonald’s contains more than 800 calories.

I long ago realized that most experiences and events, when pressed, will cough up at least one joke or two for me.

But this week?

I stopped watching the news coverage after a teacher from Newtown described how she locked herself and her kids in a bathroom and told them she loved them. She did not want the last thing they heard to be gunfire. I felt an almost physical pain in hearing that story. I had to walk away and focus on the busy weekend at hand – shuttling kids to piano recitals, moving furniture around for plaster repair, and addressing 100 Walsh Family Christmas cards for mailing. For once, I was relieved to have our ridiculous schedule and its many wonderful diversions.

But what I couldn’t anticipate were the posts on Facebook disputing everything from God to guns to mental illness. Then I read the eulogy given by an amazing mother, Veronique Pozner. Veronique spoke of her son Noah with such obvious pride and careful attention to what made him extraordinary that it simply took my breath away. She wanted the world to understand how unique and marvelous her son had been.

Everywhere I turned, I sensed sadness, shock, and anger.

So I averted my eyes, looked down, and tried to avoid it all.

And that’s when I noticed Joey. My youngest son had taken complete advantage of his distracted mother and packed up every last item from our pantry into plastic bags. He gathered them all in the middle of the living room and announced that they were ready for transport.

“What is all this?” I asked, annoyed that I would now be required to devote an hour to re-stocking our pantry shelves.

“Dees are Cwismis pwesents for Gwetchen!”

Gretchen is the daughter of a friend. Joey is madly in love with Gretchen. He tells everyone he meets that she is his best pal. Gretchen, of course, is wholly unaware of Joey’s affections for her.

“Do you really think Gretchen wants THREE cans of tuna for Christmas?” I questioned as I started placing items back where they belonged.

“Dos are her FAY-voh-WIT,” assured Joey.

I had to marvel at the kid’s tenacity. He had somehow managed to convince himself that the way to Gretchen’s heart was through food. And by God, food was what he would deliver.

I couldn’t help but laugh.

It was the first time in several days that I experienced something other than intense melancholy. Part of me felt guilty. Part of me felt inappropriate. And part of me felt like my old self again.

Joey has always had a knack for diffusing tension in our household. He is a clown and a performer. He also has a keen eye for when people are troubled or despondent. My husband refers to this as having a “good social IQ.”

I refer to it as “being Joey.”

I choose to celebrate the magic of my son today as Veronique would want us all to celebrate the magic of her Noah. There is such laughter and love to children. I am grateful Veronique had the strength to remind us of that with her powerful and poignant words.

I am also grateful for my Joey.

After we put away the pantry items, Joey turned to search our house for something else to give Gretchen for Christmas. I can hear him now, rifling through drawers and closets with reckless abandon. What he comes up with is anyone’s guess. But I can assure you:

This ought to be good.

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