I’ve been thinking about my Dad a lot lately and his dark sense of humour and how he engaged humour to soften the blow of difficult times – as the best medicine. Interesting for a man born on the 1st of April 1923 and who resented that date for the rest of his life. CW: low level discussions of end of life conversations.
My Dad joked at the most inappropriate times, but always made it about the ridiculousness of the situation instead of mocking the people in it.
He would often tell me how much he disliked people who played ‘practical jokes’ on people. Being born of the 1st April and growing up in the 1920’s and 30’s in the Collingwood/Fitzroy are of Melbourne meant he never got to experience a birthday that wasn’t filled with anxiety about what someone might do to him in the name of joke.
I’ve never really thought about it much until recently. But now, I am doing at PhD on…the politics of laughter, with the title: “You Can’t Laugh at That”. So I suppose it’s been a topic of interest in my life for as long as I can remember because members of my family seemed to laugh at everything bad that happened.
Dad did like to say, at the end of the discussion about how he hated April Fools Day, but would add sometime funny at the end of it. It was like he was disclaiming not liking a day that was supposed to be humourus, with humour.
Maybe this an example of humour traditions born out of the great depression and two world wars? “I think this is shit and <describe how this is shit>, but then <insert funny story that makes people laugh about how shit it is>”
So, when in last few years of his life he was fighting a number of voices in his medical care that wanted to keep him alive in circumstances he didn’t consent to. He had an adventurous life until his 50’s and while he didn’t complain, he loved telling me his stories of that life. He had a living will that said he didn’t want to spend the end of his life being kept alive by machines. It was his worst nightmare.
I’ve not forgotten a conversation just before he died about a doctor who had branded him “noncompliant” for rejecting a treatment. A treatment he thought was effectively a medical experiment to his thinking.
While he spent his entire life disliking his birthday being the butt of jokes, he reminded me what he thought of the doctor with a hot take on the circumstances of his birth. Whether it was an embellishment or not he would say:
“It just before midnight and the midwife got really worried and was yelling at my mother Push! push! you need to push!”
<At this point, he would get very solemn because he knew how to tell a story>
“And my Mother was like, but I’m not ready! I’m not ready to push! It’s too soon! And the midwife…”
<Insert dramatic pause>
“And the midwife is waving her arms in the air saying “you cannot have this child on April Fools Day! And I was born at 12.05 on the 1st of April. I’ve never done what I was told to, why would I start now”.Jack brady 2002
And herein lies the birth of the tradition of my humour and probably that of the entirety of Dad’s side of the family. Laugh at the tragic, the inconvenient, the sad, the annoying parts of life, because otherwise you are destined to be a slave to those events. To laugh at these events is an act of resilience, not humour.
That’s all for my Saturday post, I did have some success finding the archaeology team for the Kilmore brewery site this week.
Hope to have more news to share about what I am learning about the Kilmore brewery soon and I’ll do some more posts about what I do know already, next week.
And research is often laborious and often noncompliant and I am having to be patient, so please don’t push and put up with my bad puns, less it bears a post too early or too late. Bye for now.