Big Brothers and the Creature from the Black Lagoon

Scream

There’s nothing I hate more than being chased.

I don’t mean being chased by someone with violent intent.  I mean the garden variety “I’m gonna get you” chase game that we played as kids.

It’s not that I don’t like fun.  Lord knows I’m always up for a game of Twister.  But “tag” and “chase” were never my favorites.  Even now as an adult, if my daughter is running up behind me, I squeal like a toddler.  I blame my brother Tim for this neurosis.

Tim is five years older than me, the third kid in our family of seven (me being the seventh and most adorable).  For some reason, he loved to scare the crap out of me when we were kids.  Maybe it was because he had an older brother who did the same and he was just sharing the McGlinn family brand of love that flowed downhill.

Whatever the reason, he loved to see me scared.

Why You Don’t Let Brothers Control the Television

My parents were too busy with all of us kids that they didn’t pay attention to what we were watching, and really, back in the ’70s, how much trouble could you find on TV?  My parents didn’t think anything of my brother sitting me down in front of “Creature Features”, “Night Gallery” and “Twilight Zone” episodes when I was five.

King Kong

Holy cow.  Imagine seeing The Creature From the Black Lagoon, the original King Kong and Godzilla movies without little kid adrenaline kicking in.  Each film produced such nightmares, that I would crawl out of bed upstairs, go down the stairs in the dark and scare my mom and dad awake and ask if I could sleep with them.  That alone should have tipped them off that something…or someone…was making me a fraidy cat.

But no.  The more scared I got, the more it busted my brother’s gut.  He would chase me up the stairs.  He would chase me down the stairs.  He would chase me around a pretend boxing ring in our living room before church on Sunday morning.

Then one day, vengeance was mine.

Why You Don’t Let Brothers Babysit

In my family, if you were the oldest in the crowd that was running around the neighborhood one day, you were the one in charge.  So sometimes  Tim was in charge of me and my sisters.

On one of many such occasions, we found ourselves in the garage of the kids across the street:  six boys who were always up for adventure and mischief-making.  One of the things they loved best was to tell ghost stories.  Even in the middle of a bright summer day, a ghost story can wreak havoc on a youngster who has seen a giant lizard crush Tokyo with his bare feet.

On this particular day, the story was about the cemetery across the highway that we could see from our neighbor’s house.  One of the boys was telling about how the “Hatchet Lady” rose up from her grave and attacked a young couple who were making out in their car.  (Note:  all of the stories involved teenagers who were kissing in cars.  Why was this the prevalent theme?  Was this a warning from our sweet Catholic school boy neighbors?  But I digress…)

running girl

I got so scared that I ran out of the garage and across the street to our house.  In my haste, I failed to notice that my brother Tim began chasing me, but then passed me so that he could beat me there.  Being five years older and faster, he made it to the back door of the house before me, dashed in, locked it and then stuck his tongue out at me through the plate glass window that I could barely reach.

Forget fear.  Anger kicked in.  I was so mad that he was laughing at my anguish over the Hatchet Lady that I started banging on the window.  In no time, it shattered.

By this point my brother was in hysterics.  He couldn’t wait until my parents got home to tell them that I was the culprit.  He was sure that my Dad would get out “the whacking belt” that was reserved for special displays of corporal punishment.

No sooner had he started laughing however, my parents arrived home from the grocery store.  They looked at him.  They looked at me crying. It took them no time to piece together the story.  I was the innocent victim.  Tim was the evil urchin.  He was hauled off to face my father’s wrath (who after grocery shopping with my mother had had enough “merriment” for the day already, so you can just imagine.)

Fair warning:  to this day, I can’t walk up a flight of stairs if someone is behind me.  I get that startle reflex that I hate.  So if you’re coming up behind me and I turn around and slug you, please don’t blame me.  Take it up with my brother.

Perfecting the Art of Laughing Through Tears

Laughing and Crying

When you’re recovering from a brain injury, everything can be really scary.

Or really funny.

You see, I have occasional blips of bad symptoms that make me think that God is never going to completely glue my grey matter back together.  The symptoms can range from feeling like I have dementia to raging adrenaline to blurry vision to disorientation of time, space and people.  Doesn’t last very long, but it keeps me wondering and waiting every day.

These symptoms are “normal” for someone in my situation, and I cry a lot.

But it’s also a big joke and I laugh a lot.

How Can You Laugh at a Time Like This?

Believe me, it sometimes feels that turning around the train of my thoughts is a Herculian effort.  Staying positive and believing that God is using all of this for my good and His glory is really, really difficult.

And yet, this verse keeps coming back to me.  And every time it makes me chuckle:

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 1, verse 27,

“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen.”

Man upside down

I think it’s absolutely hysterical that God can possibly take this lump of clay that is my brain and use it for His glory.  It’s funny that while I’m doing the “fake it until you make it” thing, most people don’t notice.  In fact, they tell me that they are blessed by me.

A Blessing?

I blessed YOU?  You’re the one who is healthy, normal, successful.  How can I, in my goofy state, have done anything for you?

I haven’t.  God has.  HE has used my weakness–my “foolishness”–to show me and the world that He is sovereign.  It makes no sense to me that my prayers, my encouragement of someone else, or my writing could possibly help someone.

In His hands, anything can be changed and used for good.

Look at all of the failures, knuckleheads, cheaters, liars, murderers, adulterers, etc. in the Bible.  From Abraham in Genesis to John in Revelation, we read about people who were so imperfect, and yet God had a plan to use the good and the bad for His ULTIMATE good.

The world, and Satan himself, thought that Jesus was the ultimate failure.  He came to earth to be king and He died a brutal death like a common criminal.

I Laugh Because I Think God Does

Smiling boy

If we are indeed made in God’s image, don’t you think He laughs?  I’m sure He does.  Best of all, He has the LAST laugh.

In every single situation in the Bible, God has turned impossible things around in ways people never would have expected.  Gideon led an army in triumph.  Joseph made it from prison to leadership in Egypt.  Daniel was saved from the mouths of lions.  Job lost everything and then gained back twice what he lost.

In every single situation, Satan thought he won.  He thought he won when David was tempted to murder and adultery.  And the world thought so too when David’s son Absalom sought to kill him (well didn’t he deserve it for all that he did?).  And yet David was called “a man after God’s own heart” and through his lineage, the Son of Man would be born.

And the ultimate laugh of all:  when Jesus rose from the dead and defeated our greatest enemy–death.  While the angels were singing on that Easter morning, I imagine God having the biggest belly laugh of all time.  I don’t think it’s irreverent to say that.  I think it’s awesome.

He is the ultimate victor.  Nothing can stop what He plans to do.  Not even a brain injury.  Let Him use it in my life if it will shut up the enemy of my soul as people are blessed by whatever He can do through me for His glory and my good.

So I will laugh about how God is using my “foolishness” now–even through tears.  And I will be laughing through eternally grateful tears on that wonderful day when He and I will sing, shout and snicker together.

To Live is to Laugh

“You can always tell an Irishman…but you can’t tell him much.”

I’m 67% Irish.

If my father’s family had anything to say about it, I’d be 100 percent. But somehow my mother snuck in under the radar as a German Swede (and a Protestant at that).

She married my dad before the McGlynns were any the wiser. Our Irish relatives never let her live down her lack of Celtic and Catholic pedigree, talking and snickering behind her back at every family gathering.

Perhaps it was because she’s never been funny, and the Irish place a premium on funny. I don’t mean to overgeneralize, but Germans, at least the ones in my family, were not what you would call humorous.

And the Swedes? Well let’s just say my Swedish relatives were all work and no play. Maybe they were cutting jokes while they were cutting meat at the my great grandfather’s butcher shop, but I never heard any. At least not any REAL yucks.

Come forth, Lazarus! And he came fifth and lost the job. From Ulysses by James Joyce

But my dad’s relatives? It was an adventure every time we saw them. There are no better storytellers than the Irish, and every tale of family intrigue was hysterical. Not because the story was that interesting–in fact it could have been about a tree that fell in someone’s yard. Yet somehow the way it was told, it would leave everyone doubled over and trying to remember every word to share it with the next person. It’s a badge of honor in our family if you weave a yarn that leaves them laughing.

Dad army photo

Laugh to Keep from…Everything

For as long as I can remember, my dad has handled both the good and the bad of life with jokes and laughter. To be serious was to consider that life is difficult and that problems may be overwhelming. Being silly was a happy form of denial that made him feel less helpless and more in control over things that couldn’t be controlled. He truly had never learned any other way to communicate.

The instinct to be hysterical would most certainly kick in when any of my father’s seven children was sick.

In fact, when I had my gall bladder removed at age 17 and almost died, my Dad was the one who spent the most time with me in the hospital in the days following the surgery. Whether sitting next to me, or walking down the halls with me (IV cart in tow), he would tell me funny stories.

Envision busting a gut–LITERALLY. I was laughing so hard it was pulling at my sutures and making me cry in pain. But I wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world. I knew that my dad loved me and was truly concerned because he was trying to make me laugh.

My Dad would be the one to incite a giggling wave throughout our family’s pew at a funeral. My Dad would be the one talking about how the tornado headed towards our house would do a great and desperately needed remodeling job. And my Dad would be the one to joke with the doctor when a prognosis was dismal, causing both doctor and patient to forget that anything was wrong.

Keep ‘Em Laughing…Whatever it Takes

Last month, we had to have my Dad join my Mom in a local nursing home as a resident. Though he’s dealing with several health issues and a wee bit of dementia, he is still trying to be as funny as ever, and using his humor to help him cope. He will call me on the phone and give me the weather report, in the style of George Carlin’s “Hippie Dippie Weatherman” skit. He will make faces as other residents go by to produce giggles. He will pull old family stories out of the shrinking storehouse in his brain to help us both feel a connection to a better time and a funnier place.

He gets frustrated that he is not as quick-witted as he once was. Besides being able to go home, nothing would make my dad happier than being able to be more humorous. So we throw easy joke bait to him and let him take a bite on a fabulous punch line of his own creation.

I’m sure that our combined sense of humor will keep us both going, since making merry is in our blood (or at least 67% of mine). But as his brain slips further away, we will have to resort to finding some new way to giggle, even if it’s simply sticking our tongues out at each other. To see that Irish twinkle in his eyes will be enough for me. Because as long as we’re laughing, we are living life to the full.