I was introduced to my future wife, Lydia Gamehen, by her sister Cornish, whom I met at a 2010 Toyotathon Sales Event. I was there to buy a Camry and Cornish was there to sweep the floor. You see Cornish was temporarily out of prison on a work-release program and as such she was a “free-range prisoner.” She’d been imprisoned for teaching Creationism at Harvard (funny how that works both ways). Anyway we chatted for a bit and I asked her what it was like to be a free-range Cornish Gamehen. “Are you stringier because you’re allowed to move about freely?”
She put her broom away and we went outside where she freely roamed the parking lot. “Y’know, you’re funny in a Pat Sajak kind of way,” she observed. “What’s your name?”
“Edsel. Edsel Lomax,” I stated.
“Well Ed, you should meet my sister Lydia. She hasn’t had a good laugh in years,” Cornish related.
“Is she in prison too,” I queried?
“No,” Cornish offered. “But she is also teacher. She teaches 2nd grade to 13 year olds. Y’know they take the short bus to school. Special Ed and such. You should meet her though. She could use some cheering up.”
As I was in between girlfriends (usually a good place to be), I decided to accept her offer, and the three of us met for coffee at a little Starbucks that had just opened inside a bigger Starbucks.
Initially I was underwhelmed by our encounter. To some, Lydia might appear plain and mousy with her rather austere demeanor and sensible shoes, but after my second coffee I could sense a seething cauldron of sinewy feminine magma percolating beneath all those earthly trappings. Then again, maybe that was just the Venti Caramel Macchiato talking. I couldn’t deny it however. I was deeply smitten.
Lydia and I began dating and even though she was a bit remote, she never once discouraged my advances. Early in our courtship my jocose sallies went essentially unnoticed by my Iron Maiden. And as she slowly relented to my jesticular manipulations, I grew ever more determined to have her my way. If only I could get her to laugh more, that would be the key to making her love come down. My deft witticisms, frequently cause for celebration amongst my intimates, were usually met with cool indifference and pregnant pauses. I would later discover just how pregnant those pauses would become.
One time I tried to amuse her by saying, “I can tell my young son is turning into a man – he’s now developed the technique where he flushes the toilet while he’s peeing.” Nothing. Virtual silence. The only sound you could hear were the fibers in my lint trap screaming, “Help! Get us out of here. We’re trapped.” Lydia was a tough nut to crack. It took patience and timing, and then one fortuitous night it all came together.
Nary a smile had registered on Lydia’s lips until that magically mirthful evening, when after a glass of zinfandel I was feeling extremely funny and Lydia was obviously in no mood to be serious. Then it happened. Situated in front of the brick backdrop of her fireplace and with the concentrated glow of soft recessed lighting encircling me, I sat on a bar stool, introduced myself, and asked Lydia how she was doing that evening. I went on to tell her what a terrific audience she was and that it was really great to be here in her living room.
I opened by joking about the always-good-for-a-laugh Civil War: “Did you know after the battle of Shiloh, General Ulysses S. Grant said that Union casualties could’ve been reduced by 60% if neither side used bullets and 100% if the South didn’t think slavery was an institution worth preserving.” Almost imperceptibly Lydia (a staunch Unionist) began tittering.
As an added silly fillip, I followed up with, “Did you know, when important British dogs die they’re buried in Westminster Kennel Club. It’s true. Grover Churchill is buried there.” I then casually mentioned how I had carnal knowledge of a dust bunny. “Oh yeah. The key is to hold on very loosely;” and tears began to form in her eyes as she tried to resist my humorous onslaught.
I had Lydia right where I wanted her – between a place and a hard rock. I then began a philosophical bit about the importance of following your bliss. I went on: “Acceding to your innermost yearnings is warranted in the name of feeling God’s pleasure. For example, did you know daredevil tightrope walker Karl Wallenda died doing what he loved most – plummeting to Earth at terminal velocity?” Lydia grew wide-eyed as a sense of humorous panic began to grip her. Her breasts swelled as her chest heaved with heavy breathing.
To heighten her sense of humorous helplessness, I moved in quickly: “Lydia, there’s something you should know about me. I’ve been diagnosed with Penile Dementia or as it’s more commonly referred to – Alzheimer’s Cock. Oh, it’s maddening. I’ll enter a womb, poke around a bit and forget why I came in there.”
With that coup de grace it was over. Wave after wave of full-throated laughter gushed from Lydia’s tender quivering lips until she begged me to stop. Her laughter knew no bounds. Her body shuddered in ecstasy with each successive movement of my vocal cords. Years of practicing stand up alone in my room had led me to expect such frenzied reaction, but this was beyond my wildest fantasies. As a gentle reminder that there was plenty more where this came from I decided to let her down easily: “Oh Lydia darling, what does a duck call a charlatan doctor?”
“Oh God, oh God, oh God please don’t tell me. I can’t it take anymore. All right Edsel, give it to me. I must know. What does a duck call a charlatan doctor?”
“Quack!” I uttered.
With that joke I dimmed the lights and let the afterglow of our loving hysterics illuminate the room. After the first show I was fairly spent and wished I had not earlier agreed to do a second set. I mean the second set was just as funny as the first, but it took me a lot longer to get to the punch line. Focus was the key. During that second set I had to fantasize about some of the funniest things that had ever happened to me in order to keep going.
Lydia and I both slept very soundly that night, although I was somewhat concerned by her persistent giggle. Concern turned to alarm when in the morning she tearfully informed me that despite our precautions (we had practiced “safe stand-up”), she had somehow become hysterically pregnant. How could this have happened I wondered? Could it be that I was just too f*cking funny.
“Are you sure,” I asked?
“Yes Edsel, my ‘Mike Nichols Home Pregnancy Test Kit’ registered 3 Elaine Mays, so it’s definite,” Lydia explained.
“Wow Lydia, that’s a pretty obscure reference,” I said.
“Hey, it’s your story,” she reminded me.
The good humor Lydia displayed throughout her hysterical pregnancy was cause for many guffaws between us. We’d pause for guffaws. During our quality time, I’d gently place my ear to her stomach and hear her uterus convulsing with laughter. “You always go straight for the jocular vein don’t you?” she giggled to me one evening. “You are truly a cause for guffaws.” She paused and then Winston pain. I’m sorry. I meant to write; “She paused and then winced in pain.”
It soon became apparent that her hysterical pregnancy was no laughing matter. Nauseating bouts of morning cackles grew more protracted with each successive dawn. When I tried to reassure her with an unintended malapropism: “Don’t worry honey, God is overlooking us,” she began experiencing severe paroxysms of laughter and soon ruptured her jocular vein. I sedated her with a copy of “Beowulf” and rushed her to the dressing room of the local comedy club where a Dr. of Hijinx listened to my description of her symptoms and assessed the situation.
“Hmmm. Morning cackles, persistent dry giggle, hyperbolic reaction to mundane jokes – Sounds like an hysterical pregnancy to me. Lydia is with joke.” Dr. Hijinx informed us.
He recommended a Radical Humorectomy to terminate the hysterical pregnancy as both the life of the mother and the jokes were at stake. It wouldn’t be easy. The Right-to-Laughter people pleaded with us to take the hysterical pregnancy to term, but I refused, feeling the jokes would be stillborn. They said yes that’s true, but at least they’ll be still born.
After refusing their offer of taking her to Rick Santorum’s house and putting the jokes up for adoption, they tried to block our exit from the dressing room by showing us pictures of aborted jokes like this one: “I could tell he was born of a Cesarean Section. Every time he leaves the house he goes out through the window.” The jokes were so repulsive I almost relented. Taking a deep breath, I blew by those censors and straight onto the stage where Dr. Hijinx warned us that if complications arose, there was the possibility that Lydia would never be able to bear laughter again.
“Bear laughter Doc? I didn’t even know they could smile,” I jested.
“Keep that up and we’ll remove your funny bone mister,” Dr. Hijinx counseled me. “By the way, I can begin the procedure immediately, but there is a two I.V. minimum and you have to tip the nurses.”
As Lydia was completely doubled over in hysterics we were in no position to negotiate. Her bouts of laughter were coming closer and closer together and her mouth was dilated to almost 9 cm.
Dr. Hijinx anesthetized her with some closed-captioned Fidel Castro speeches dealing with the inevitable triumph of Communism and how the glorious “People’s Revolution” has allowed Cuba to lead the world in the production of stalks. Lydia was out cold in 30 seconds flat. In fact the entire operating room was out cold in 30 seconds flat and only after we were awakened by the bartender’s “last call,” was the doctor able to successfully remove the embryonic laughter from her womb and repair her ruptured jocular vein. Ironically this Radical Humorectomy left her in stitches for weeks.
Dr. Hijinx’s after care for Lydia was a judicious four-pronged regimen of applied medical wisdom:
1. Practicing random acts of seriousness. For example, placing flowers on the graves of strangers
2. Keeping a journal of Karl Rove’s thoughts, should any occur to him
3. Reading Iowa State Supreme Court decisions 1959-60 – Focusing on minority opinions
4. Regular practice of oral sex
OK, I admit it. It is obvious I convinced Dr. Hijinx to allow me to prescribe one part of the regimen. But how could I resist? Those Iowa Supreme Court decisions are so fascinating and Lydia read them with great earnestness. Since the surgery, her memory is almost photographic. Or as Groucho would say; “Lydia, oh Lydia that encyclo-pidia.” She healed quickly and by Christmas time she was once again as stoic as an ascetic.
Our romance flourished and on April Fool’s Day 2012, Dr. Hijinx married us on the same nightclub stage where he performed surgery – usually 2 performances a night. At least I think he married us. I mean he sacredly joined us in Holy Acrimony and pronounced us “man and strife.” We honeymooned in Viagra Falls and even though it was April, the Falls were frozen stiff.
While I continue to expose my wife to events that are distinctly somber like visits to Arlington National Cemetery or recent Adam Sandler movies, we are moving in new directions which allow us to experience the joys of irrational exuberance without any of the hazardous laughing associated with Lydia’s earlier pregnancy. For example, our new little spin off, darling Frivolissa, was born on Dec 7, 2012 and when she was conceived we were having an incredible amount of fun without giving even the slightest thought to laughter.
As I said to her on our 1st anniversary a few weeks ago, “Lydia, my dearest, you are one Gamehen.”
“And you Edsel darling,” Lydia confessed, “you will always be my special Ed.”