Better Together

by Madeleine

Laughing

Every April, considering it begins with a “fool’s day,” I cannot help but think of my father. He was, bar none, the biggest practical joker I ever knew. For years, he could pull the wool over our eyes. Sometimes, it would be “fake news,” like the time he called us about a flat tire from which he needed to be rescued miles away during a snow storm. We got in the car, only to discover him in the driveway, having made the call from the neighbor’s house. Other times, it would be a sight gag, like the big plastic bug he placed inside a lit lampshade that made my mother and me scream bloody murder.

Over time, we grew wise to my dad’s pranks, but what will stay with us forever is his sense of humor, razor-sharp wit and good-natured spirit. He intrinsically understood the power of laughter – it really is the best medicine – and so many of my childhood memories are of our family guffawing and goofing around in good fun. 

Perhaps that’s why my mother, Lillian, is still in such great shape: she laughed her way through her entire marriage to my dad, who passed away three years ago after a long, gleeful life. The physical and psychological benefits of laughter are undeniable, almost too many to count. But, having laughed my way through most of my life as well, I wanted to learn exactly what some of those benefits are. Here’s what I found: 

Laughter relieves pain, stress and conflict, easing muscle tension for up to 45 minutes. It lightens burdens, inspires hopes, releases anger (just try being mad when you’re laughing!), decreases pain, and keeps you more alert. Laughter also boosts the immune system and infection-fighting antibodies, releases endorphins (the feel-good hormone), improves blood vessel function and blood flow to the heart, and even burns calories. According to a Norwegian study, a sense of humor helped those struggling with disease cope better and live longer.

That’s good news for both me and Mom, because we are both committed to getting our daily dose of laughter. We’re always in search of the latest comedy in movie theaters, and Schaumburg turns out to be one of the best Chicago suburbs for the comedy club scene. Mom and I and some of her new friends from Friendship Village have been to all three of the city’s venues – Chicago Improv, Laugh Out Loud, and the Chicago Comedy Company – all within about 10 minutes of Friendship Village. 

Improv is our favorite comedy style, so when my mom told me she recently joined Friendship Village’s Laff-a-Minute improv group (led by Teri McEvoy, who was in the film Contagion), I was not surprised and only too happy to learn that she’ll be getting even more of the healthy advantages of a good giggle. Mom always ends up in peals of laughter when she tells me about the group that takes participants from one improv situation to the next, drawing on their collective, and hilarious, creativity. “Our leader, Teri, is so funny and such a bundle of energy!” Mom tells me. 

I’m convinced that my mother has made so many friends at Friendship Village because of their ability to laugh together. That’s also likely why she and I have such a good relationship, as I also learned that laughter bonds people closer together and strengthens friendships. It warms my heart to see my mom yukking it up with all her new pals. Dad would be happy, too.