I believe in the healing magic of humor.
I was trying to keep from crying. It was ten o’clock in the morning and I was walking through the middle of downtown. I had now been living alone for months. The truth was starting to sink in; the woman I had loved for years wasn’t coming home.
Every step I took was a stride into a new, bleak world. I looked up to see I was a few steps away from the street where my dentist kept his office. My eyes fastened on the bare metal backside of a one-way traffic sign. Someone had used a black marking pen to print, in big, black, block letters: “Everything will be OK.”
The simplicity of the statement overwhelmed me. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I laughed and groaned at the same time, generating a noise I was unfamiliar with. After staring at the words for a full minute I made my turn onto my dentist’s street.
My dentist is seventy-seven years old and still works six days a week. Dr. Kazlow’s hair, however, doesn’t work as hard as he does any more. All but a thin band above his ears has retired for good, leaving a bald pate to reign over Dr. Kazlow’s long and honest face. His brown eyes are animated and expressive, and thanks to the magnification of his glasses, they appear unusually large. Sometimes, when I’m in the chair and his face is within a foot of mine, seventy-seven years of living shine through those eyes. From time to time he has spoken to me about his life, his good wife, his daughter who leads a troubled life. Maybe that’s why he works such long hours at his age. It keeps him busy, keeps him from worrying all the time.
Dr. Kazlow entered the room. He asked the dreaded question, “How are you today?”
I answered with the best lie I could muster, told him I was fine. He had already clipped the bib around my neck, but he paused, and set down his tool. “You look like something is bothering you,” he said. “Are you OK?”
I didn’t want to burden anyone with my personal struggles, much less an older man with significant problems of his own. But it just came out of me. I told him why I was having a hard time getting through the days.
He sat quietly while I talked. Maybe someday I’ll be wise enough to listen to my fellow humans when they talk to me from their heart. It wasn’t a life or death issue for him, or something that directly affected his world, or even something that he could do anything about. But he cared enough to listen.
And then I told him about the sign.
“It was truly a sign, Dr. Kazlow,” and I managed a small laugh at my pun. “Right there in front of me was the message I needed to hear, ‘Everything will be OK.’”
He didn’t respond right away. The room settled into quiet. He was sitting on his stool next to me with his hands folded in his lap. Then he let out a sigh, picked up his dental tool and turned to look at me. He had a wry smile on his ancient face as he spoke.
“Ah. If only that was true…”
We both laughed for a long, long time.
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