Several years ago, when we were employed at the American Embassy in Moscow, Russia, my wife worked in the Consular section with several local Russians. During a casual conversation, one of the women she worked with said something humorous and Terese laughingly replied, “You’re crazy!” The woman suddenly became defensive and was most upset, because she understood the term “crazy” as what she read in the dictionary. I believe it took some time for her to understand, we Americans don’t use the dictionary for our speech.
Back a few years further, when I worked in the airbase at Kandahar, Afghanistan, the base was essentially a small city with about 4000-5000 people. The base employed people from the Slavic countries to work in the shops, including the barber shops. The shop I went to, being closest to my tent had a Russian woman who did a good job on my noggin. One evening while she was trimming my beard, I asked her the Russian word for beard. What she told me was some long word that I would in no way remember. I don’t recall the full conversation we had, but I made the comment that she was silly. She became very defensive and stated, she was not a clown! There were several other attempts at words that she also found offensive, until I simply stated, “You make me laugh.” It was at this point, as she stood with a pair of scissor not far from my soft neck, that she was not only satisfied with that statement, but I sensed it made her happy, because “she made me laugh”.
That is one of those unusual times in life you do not forget.
We have a very dear friend we love who has a special laugh that is distinctively hers. If she is in a crowded room, you will know it. She is a California blonde we met while working in Moscow, and it’s enjoyable to be around her because her laughter is contagious. No way can you talk to her without you, yourself laughing. I can say something off the wall and she will burst out in her song of joy. When that happens, it makes us laugh.
Near our house, there is a small restaurant on the hill that is supposed to be Italian. Suffice to say, they do sell pizzas and pasta, but Italian? I’m not so sure. Sometimes, I will go there and order a few pizzas to go, and wait at the bar with a beer. There is a little girl who usually waits on us, that I believe is so thin, if you made her stand in the flat open fields of the Texas Panhandle, the wind would make her vibrate. I enjoy talking to her, because her laughter is embedded in her words. Mostly, it’s an ironic laugh, like she sees the humor in everything she says. And her laughter makes me laugh.
She has told me her name numerous times, probably thinking I’m senile for asking repeatedly, but the truth is, unless I see it in writing I will not remember it. I do know her mother gave her the name which means “Life” in Amharic, the Ethiopian language. So, excuse me a moment while I jump on the Internet and find the Amharic word for “Life”.
… okay. Her name is “Hywät”. I think. I found several words and this sounds familiar.
Hywät is going to University to study nursing and currently works part time in the emergency room at one of the hospitals in Addis. So while waiting for my take home pizzas, I like to start talking to her about her schooling and her job. I find it enjoyable to speak to the young people, especially quizzing them on subjects they like. My favorite is asking them the speed of light.
Now, understand, there is a language barrier between the two of us, but she does speak English, perhaps better than me. Trouble is her heavy Ethiopian accent. Without my wife with me, I have trouble even understanding the British, Australians and Canadians; so when talking to Hywät, I catch only every few words, but it’s enough to get the gist of what she says.
I usually ask her about the people she treats in the Emergency ward, and I will do my best to remember what she has told me in the past.
I asked her if she gets woozy with the sight of blood. With her usual chuckle, she told me the first time she assisted in an operation, she started to pass out, but the doctor told her, “No! Get back to work!” She said that cured her. “Is no problem now.”
I once asked her if she ever delivered a baby. She replied back incredulously, that she’s never had a baby, and not even married. I said, “No, have you delivered a baby?” and I even used my hands to imitate delivering a baby, which I don’t even remember how I did it. She replied with another laugh, NO, NO!!
She told me how she helped a woman who was about to give birth, and she felt so sorry for her that she herself began to cry, and laughingly added, it made the patient start crying also.
I asked her if she has to sew people up, again using my hand gestures to indicate sewing. “Yes, I suture people. A man came in and I suture his head.” Then she added, “Not brain, just head.”
Whew! That’s good!
But what I am getting to is something she told me and Terese the other night. Terese has been gone so long, that Hywät misses her. She told me, “Your wife is good. She has respect for all people.” I replied, yes she does. I was surprised that she noticed that in the short times we visited with her. So, I promised her that Terese will be with me the next time I come.
So Terese joined me the other night, and while we talked to her about her school and medical work, she mentioned that her mother, who has Diabetes, has to have regular injections. But now Hywät gives her the injections. Then she stated, “My mother tells her friends, `I don’t need hospital now, because my daughter is nurse and gives me injections.’ Then Hywät smiled and said, “When my mother says that, I am very happy!”
I like that. Again, one of those things that stays with you. Now, let’s go the same direction but different path.
Throughout the past 10, 15 or 20 years, however long the Internet has been public, I have received many of these silly questionnaires that you are suppose to fill out and send to 10 other people or your pants will burst into flames. You’ve seen them. What is your favorite color, song, movies, movie star, ice cream flavor, blah, blah, etc., … ad nauseam …
Well, once I had one of those sent to me that actually had a good question. “What is your favorite sound?” I have two. One is the sound a baby makes when the little one is cooing. The other is my mother’s laughter. Whenever I visit with my mother, either in person or the phone, I often find myself trying to think of something to make her laugh. I also notice that trait in several of my siblings. We all do our best to make Mom laugh.
The Dear Lady has given birth to nine of us and yet she’s still living a long life. I am convinced, her living past her 93rd birthday might have something to do with her love for life and all its humor. I sincerely hope I am as fortunate as I get older. In a few years, (for safety sake, I’ll say 15/20 years) when she is called Home to enjoy her much deserve Eternal Reward, we will no longer have her laughter to listen for, but can be consoled in knowing the occupants of Heaven will enjoy her laughter first hand. For when she is laughing, she makes everyone else happy.