Husband was just Boyfriend then. When his Sister-in-Law called and said his mom was not doing well, he’d asked me to come with him to in Scotland to see her. It was the week before Thanksgiving and his mom was in the end stages of liver cancer. It was a horrible time to meet his family for the first time but we were getting serious and I wanted to be there for him so off I went.
When we got there, his mom was too ill to visit with anyone other than family. Quite frankly, I was terrified she wouldn’t like me so, I was okay that they didn't want to subject her to me. In Scotland, the doctors and the nurses will come to your home so his mom's hospice care was the lower floor of the house. As Boyfriend’s support I was mostly just in the way so I spent that week up in the room at the top of the stairs reading mystery books, thinking deep thoughts about life and death and watching lots of British TV. My mother had just had a bone marrow transplant so I was very familiar with the distresses that cancer brings and I just tried to be there when he needed me. When his mother passed away a few days later, the family was busy calling people and dealing with her effects and I was at even more of a loss for how I could help. I alternated between trying to make tea and hiding upstairs. And then somehow, I ended up in the parlor with Boyfriend’s Father and his mother’s sister, Auntie.
Now, in situations where I’m uncomfortable, I get stupid and giggly and don’t think straight. And when I don’t think straight, I say the most inappropriate things. And there is not much more uncomfortable than me sitting in the parlor with the Boyfriend’s Father and Auntie after they have just lost their best friend, their sister, their wife.
I sat there, in the parlor on the fussy couch, all twitchy with self-conscious feelings and they sat on opposite ends of the room in silence. They weren’t talking to each other. They weren’t talking to me. The silence was smothering me. And so my nervous brain decided that this would be the perfect time to tell the joke I’d heard Billy Connolly tell on TV the night before. The totally inappropriate joke that should never be told to your prospective in-laws and most definitely not just after they have lost a wife and sister. And yet, I told it...
Awkward booming silence:
ME: (throat clear) So I heard this great Billy Connolly joke the other day. Would you like to hear it?
More awkward silence. I should have stopped here but I don’t listen when my brain says stop. Or even my brain yells STOP, THIS IS A BAD IDEA.
ME: Soooo he said when you’re over 60 there are three things you should never do. Never pass up a chance to pee. Never trust a fart. And…
It was at this point I realized what I was doing, where I was, what joke I was telling and I tried to stop. Really, I did. But then Boyfriend walked into the room and I made it worse. I involved him.
ME: (stuttering) Um... I was just telling the joke I heard Billy Connolly tell last night… you know the one when you’re over 60 there are three things... um.... you should never do. Ah... the first was, um, never pass up a chance to pee. And the... the second...um, was never trust a fart. And…
And Boyfriend wasn't really listening. He shot me a look. A look that said, “What the hell are you talking about?” look. There was no real way out so I played dumb.
ME: Um… I’m not sure what the punch line is….
Boyfriend didn’t get that I was stalling. He shot me another look but didn’t fill the silence. I was forced to continue. Silence is my nemesis.
ME: Um… Never pass up a chance to pee. Never trust a fart. Never waste an…
And then Boyfriend realized what joke was telling.
And what the punch line was.
And he tried to stop me but it was too late. Boyfriend started speaking just as I shouted the punch line -
ME: ... ERECTION! NEVER WASTE AN ERECTION!
And I thrust my arm into the air and shook it.
The room was silent. You could hear my cheeks catch fire and burn me up. You could hear the rain on the roof three rooms above us. You could hear Boyfriend's brain calculate the risks of helping me out of this situation and then stop as he came to the conclusion that it was a no win.
Boyfriend looked at me, his head shaking slightly, lips pursed, and then he stood up and LEFT THE ROOM. Leaving me with my future Father-in-Law and my future Auntie and the awkward, awful stench of a joke gone wrong.
And what happens when I’m in uncomfortable situations? I tell inappropriate stories. And what’s more uncomfortable than having just told a Billy Connelly joke at a kind of wake…?
ME: Soooo when my brother turned 18, I talked my mother into giving him a Playboy magazine…