Laughing with you, not at you
While escorting my youngest daughter and her boyfriend to a romantic Valentine's Day dinner at McDonalds last Friday, I found myself to be the source of much amusement to them and several people waiting in the drive-through line when I suddenly stumbled and nearly fell upon stepping up to the curb.
Immediately following the near-fall, I looked up at the teens who turned their heads away from me and struggled to restrain their laughter.
"Nice," I thought to myself.
This wasn't the first time that my "baby" laughed at me for taking a tumble.
One summer, my daughter and I decided to take a bike ride around Mauch Chunk Lake.
We came across a little gully that had been etched out by water runoff that was perhaps two feet wide.
I told my daughter to get off her bike and walk it over so that she didn't fall and get hurt.
I received the typical eye-roll as a response as she acted upon my instructions.
For whatever reason, I chose to ignore the advice that I had just given my daughter and, thinking that I could just ride over it if I had enough speed to propel me (think Evel Knievel), I began to pedal rapidly to make the jump.
Instead of impressively leaping over the gully, my tire lodged itself in the crevice propelling me and my bike up and over, sending me flying across the handle bars and crashing onto the ground as my bike flipped up into the air and slammed down next to me, scarcely missing my head.
After assessing my old body for any serious damage and thanking God that there was none, I looked up at my daughter to reassure her that her beloved mother had survived her own foolishness.
In her eyes there was a hint of concern, but it was her mouth that displayed her true emotions.
Her lips were curled under her teeth and her jaw began to quiver as she tried to spit out the words "Are you OK?"
She kept contorting her face, trying desperately to maintain her composure but I knew the inevitable was upon me.
"I'm fine," I barked, and with that, a volcano of laugher erupted from my caring and loving daughter.
At first, I was feeling quite hurt at her lack of sensitivity, but as I watched the tears rolling out of her eyes as she went through all of the motions of a good belly laugh, I couldn't help but begin to laugh with her.
It really must have been quite a scene; the big eyes and terrified look on my face while my arms flailed in the air.
"I could have been hurt," I said to her.
"Yeah, but you weren't," she said as she continued to crack up.
My oldest daughter is much worse with this.
There isn't even the slightest bit of restraint for her when someone falls.
She even went as far as to send me a falling down video that some dad shot while waiting to pick his kid up from school.
The father sat in his car and watched as student after student slipped and ultimately fell on the same icy patch.
He even went as far as to make predictions in between his own bursts of laughter, as to who would have the best fall based on how fast they were walking.
Other kids stood around giggling as they waited for the next innocent victim to meet with the same fate they had.
At first, I thought he was terrible for not warning them and for choosing to video tape the whole thing and post it on the Web for all to see.
But then, it happened.
I curled my lips around my teeth and tried to restrain my own laughter.
I totally cracked up and began to anxiously wait for the next unsuspecting student to do their own little ice dance and ultimately find themselves on their rumps.
As terrible as it all sounds, there is one thing, I think, that saves us all from being true barbarians: the fact that in each instance, no one was hurt.
I know my daughter would not have been laughing at me had I injured myself when I flipped over my bike, and I'm sure most people would rush to the aid of someone who took a serious fall on the ice.
However, if you find yourself doing your own little ice dance or landing on your rump, as long as you are OK, don't be too hard on someone if they suddenly find themselves laughing.
Blame people like Charlie Chaplin and the Three Stooges for making falling a funny thing, because sometimes, it just is.