Friday, March 23 , 2018, 12:59 pm | A Few Clouds 59º


Tim Durnin: A Painful Separation from One of My Great Loves

I lost my good humor somewhere between the 9/11 attacks and my daughter becoming a teenager

My wife recently chastised me for writing too many serious columns. “Lighten up,” she entreated as I submitted my last piece. It is good advice; I have become too serious. On the other hand, I’m just not that funny. I used to be funny, but my good humor left me somewhere between 9/11 and my daughter becoming a teenager.

I can’t say there was a moment when my wit abandoned me. She did not walk out the door and leave a “Dear John” letter on the entry table. We just drifted apart over time until I woke up one morning and realized she didn’t love me anymore. We haven’t exactly parted, but we’re sleeping in separate rooms.

We were great childhood friends. I can still remember my favorite punch line from our youth: “The last thing I remember seeing is the poor monkey trying to put the cork back in.” As hard as I tried, I couldn’t remember the joke so I Googled it. After rummaging through several poorly amended versions, I found the one I heard in sixth grade. I laughed about that joke for days when I was 12. Now the most I can muster is, “Meh.”

In high school she introduced me to satire, irony and the wisecrack. I became skilled at the sarcastic retort and sardonic quips to keep my own insecurities at bay. She was a good friend then, helping me distance myself from emotional hazards and cope with the tumult that is high school.

We courted in college. She dragged me unwillingly into comic maturity, introducing me to the conundrum, hyperbole and parody. I wrote a column for my college paper. She guided my pen patiently as I cut my teeth on humorous writing. It wasn’t pretty or successful, but she stood by me.

When she introduced me to intellectual banter I knew it was love. Those were the glorious days of our youth. I can still remember sitting for hours in DeSales Cafeteria on rainy days. We sat over coffee laughing endlessly; my good friend Maria, my apartment mates Peter and John, and a few others whose faces have melted into time. It was the first time I ever thought I might be intelligent. She had that kind of effect on me.

We were officially united after college. Looking back I think we spent the next 10 years laughing. She would show up at my work at the most unexpected times displaying her unpredictable, feminine wiles. I was funny then, really funny. I could keep an entire bar laughing — not with jokes but with well-orchestrated anecdotes from the trenches of education and my search for love. I told a great story.

She welcomed my courtship and marriage, adding laughter and amusement to the insanity of falling in love. She was there when I proposed. We laughed to the point of tears recalling my future wife sawing through what was supposed to have been a delicate chocolate shell to find her ring. And when I say saw, I mean saw. The entire restaurant watched in anticipation. It took her five minutes to get through the three-quarter-inch chocolate fortress.

When my children were born, our relationship peaked. It was like walking on air and breathing nitrous oxide. Our amusement was more subtle and deeper with children. Small things, almost everything took on a shade of laughter and suddenly the world was nearly pure joy.

And then people started to die. For whatever reason, Sept. 11, 2001, opened the floodgates. It started with aunts and uncles and quickly spread to my father-in-law and shortly thereafter my father. She left me for a time. She returned, but as soon as she did another relative or beloved pet met their demise. We stopped talking.

It isn’t that I can’t laugh, I can. I am just far less capable of generating laughter in others. I want that back, I want her back. There is hope; she’s still in the house. I think I will start with a small gesture. I will go to her room tonight and stand at her door. “Knock, knock,: I will say and wait for her charmed response.

I’ll let you know how it works out and promise to ask her for help with this column.

— Tim Durnin is a father and husband. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for comments, discussion, criticism, suggestions and story ideas.

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