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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: At Wit’s End (02/13/14)

TITLE: Don't Cry For Me Erma Bombeck
By Linda Germain


The ability to wrap painful truths in soothing balms of humor is priceless. A spoonful of sugar really does help neutralize the bad taste of some of life’s medicines we’d rather just skip.

Quick-witted writers who make relevant observations with a well-developed funny bone generally have a lot more to say than we might suspect on first read. Erma Bombeck, a talented columnist and author who passed away in 1996, tops my list of favorite humorists.

She is quoted as saying, “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”

I often think about her when I’m laughing at the daily humorous scenarios waiting in ambush for me around nearly every corner. Any caregiver of persons with changing brain responses to even the most mundane of activities realizes there must be a few giggles and guffaws or the tears withheld might multiply and explode.

My LOLs (Little Old Ladies) are my two blessings. They are 88 and 89. One has hearing aids that often need tweaking. She is quite spry and does very well living alone. She still drives.

The other one refuses to have any assistance with her hearing loss. I live with her and take care of everything from bills to shopping and cooking and chauffeuring.

After anyone’s medical appointment, or as we call it doctor day, that person gets to choose the place for lunch. Yesterday, it was a restaurant with a huge buffet.

After our plates are filled and the noise from the potato peeling machine stops its incessant and distracting thumping, LOL #1, apropos of who-knows-what, begins a conversation about her mother having had ten children.

"My aunt used to say all Mother had to do was give one little grunt and the baby was born..."

LOL #2 has only one short comment.

"Well, of course it would be easy in that condition."

I jump in (refereeing as usual).

"Uh…how is that condition easy?"

"You know,” she explains as if I couldn’t hear thunder,“being drunk!"

People are listening, but I have to stop her.

" No! Wait dear! She said a little grunt, not a little drunk."

She won’t be dissuaded.

"I know what she said, and they're the same thing!"

There is no arguing with her unique brand of logic and hearing, but then #1 won’t let that comment slide about her own saintly, tea-totaling mama. She tries to explain what grunting means, by show and tell.

"Look,” she gesticulates and grimaces, “like this…uhm, uhm."

Unimpressed, my #2 watches the bug-eyed heaving demonstration. She keeps eating for a few seconds and then reiterates, "I KNOW THAT! But, they are the same thing!"


By then, I realize any more tutorials are a complete waste of time! The subject is closed.

I offer to go to the dessert buffet and get #2 the delicious carrot cake she always chooses. She says she's been thinking about it a lot and has decided to change her routine today.

"Bring me some vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and lots of little miscellaneous things on top!"

When I bring it back to her, sprinkled with nuts and some crushed cookies, she says, "What's all this stuff?"

(Oh Lord, I plead…I need a vacation!)

Bless her heart. I’m not making fun of her. She is simply a funny girl, and was before she began being what she calls, “a little mixed up sometimes.”

I try to choose programs on TV that might stimulate some deductive reasoning. When I leave the room for a few seconds I say, “Now keep up so you can tell me what happened next.”

As I hurry back in I ask specific questions with great expectation. “Okay, what did the man say? Did they find the lost dog?”

She usually looks at me very sweetly and replies in her softest little voice, “I don’t know. I had my brain in neutral.”

Do I cry or do I laugh? Yes.

Erma’s observation about that thin line speaks volumes. I pray to walk it with them with as much patience as possible while we gently laugh our way to new beginnings.

My dear elderly characters bring lots of humor to our tables. At the end of a frustrating day of unplanned comedy skits, I say to #2, “Say good night, Gracie.”

She gets it! She responds without missing a beat, “Good night, Gracie.”

We chuckle companionably and then go our own ways to get ready for tomorrow’s routine.


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This article has been read 444 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Phyllis Inniss02/22/14
I agree with that thin line concept. In the midst of sorrow there can be laughter and vice-versa. Thank God you have the patience to understand your characters and are willing to help them through their "interesting" moments. God bless.
Edward Mrkvicka02/22/14
Yes, there is a rather thin line “that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.” That’s a truth no feeling person can deny. That said, writing about it is no easy task, but you did so perfectly. I smiled and got a lump in my throat at the same time. That’s what the dichotomies of life do to us – one moment there is a sadness replaced by joy and humor that others perhaps cannot see, because, in this case, they don’t know or love your LOLs as you do. On behalf of both of them, thank you.
C D Swanson 02/24/14
Thank you for this poignant story that touched my heart. You've managed to write about a difficult situation with aplomb and class.

My thoughts are with you.

God bless~
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/27/14
This is really sweet. First I have to applaud you for the LOL because it stood for little old lady long before texting and IMing and all that came about. You had me smiling throughout this delightful piece. Congratulations on ranking 33 overall!