How I Miss the Laughter

When Phil walked into the Mountain Home Air Force Base swimming pool, I was not interested. He was too young, too military, he was flirty with the staff, and, besides, there was that blue hammock swim suit. EW! He was persistent. I couldn’t understand why. I was broken. I had just left a marriage that cost me my family for a time, my church, and my friends. I had spent years being the responsible reliable Linda. I was always the one who made the right choices until I couldn’t hide any more. I walked away from a marriage for valid reasons and the last thing I wanted was to date another military man or someone that young. I didn’t bank on Phil’s persistence or what he brought into my life. He taught me to love my country, how to love well and how to let someone love me well, and he taught me how to laugh.

To understand the laughter, one has to understand that I was always worried and anxious about doing the right thing and never letting anyone down. I was rigid and inflexible in terms of how hard I was on my self. I was a very black and white person. When he asked me out for the 20th time, he told me that he wouldn’t ask me out again if I said no. As I sat there sweaty from a work out, I realized that there was only one answer. I said yes. Yes to the risk . Yes to him. Yes to us. Four months later we ran away to Reno to get married not because we had to, but because we realized from the earliest days of dating that we were better together than apart.

I remember how hard he made me laugh. He would often chase me around the house being the slimy French man or the Pablo, the Venezuelan heartthrob. I still smile when I think of his language skills and how he used them to bring something to me that I had never had. Joy. I sorely miss those moments because we had them so often. I loved watching his eyes light up. After 23 years, he still had it. Things were not always easy because we had so many children, his career choice, and we made the choice for me to stay at home, but I remember that we found a way to connect every single day.

I couldn’t even stay mad at him very long. We hadn’t been married for very long and Phil and I had a minor tiff. I do not even remember it, but I do remember when he waved a white hanky in the bedroom door. As soon as I saw that white hanky being waved, I laughed. From there, communication was restored. For the rest of our days, Phil would sometimes drive up with a white rag tied around the antenna of the car or tied to the door know or waved in a room and I would laugh. Laughter reset everything.

I miss the joy and the laughter. As I leave to run the Dopey Challenge in a few hours, I can’t help some melancholic thoughts. The last gift Phil ever gave me was the Goofy Challenge. The last kiss goodbye was hours (about 3.5 hours) after I got back from the Goofy Challenge because his orders were deployed. I will never forget that I was laughing as he left. You see, we had just finished the what if talk when the cab came. I watched with dread. He kissed me and told me that a year wasn’t a long time and then he was gone. I watched at the cab drove slowly up the road. When the cab stopped and I saw him sprinting back, I was sure he had forgotten something. He had—he wanted one more kiss. He drew me into his arms and passionately kissed me and told me that he loved me. I laughed because it was so out of character and that simple act reset the goodbye—the memory.

As I continue the struggle to find who I am without my Phil, I struggle to find the joy and the laughter. I simply can’t see years of living in darkness. I know that my Phil wouldn’t want me broken and unable to find my footing. I recognize that I need to take control of seeking joy. Happiness is a choice—my choice. This year is my year of believing and as I travel to Disney, I am looking at how I can spark that enthusiasm for life again. It isn’t natural to me, but I took an extra two days to visit the amusement parks this year. I am also going to go out to eat alone this time. My choice, the choice that I know my Phil would want, is for me to hold on the girl who learned to laugh off the minor things and the value of humor in the darker times. What better place to start than where we had so much fun, where the end started, and where my year of hope started. This year? I believe in happiness and I believe in me.

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