Being sleep-deprived has the same effect on my mom as a heavy dose of alcohol has on other people. And she is tired a lot!
When she is tired, she gets the giggles. I’m not just talking about polite, little chuckle-type giggles. Her face turns red, her whole body shakes, and if she’s really, really tired, she might even snort. It only takes a word or two to start her off, and once she gets started, she may not quit shaking and snorting for half an hour. And then, just when she is catching her breath, I like to say the trigger word again and she starts all over. I have to admit, it is pretty amusing….and contagious. It’s really hard not to laugh with her (or at her) when she is busting up.
Not being able to control her giggling has gotten her into trouble before. For instance, when I was a young girl, we were visiting with an elderly great-aunt. As many elderly relatives love to do, she busied herself with relaying all of the latest family gossip, centered mostly on the state of health of all the different relatives that I had never even heard of.
We were all tired from a long drive, but Mom was especially tired. And that meant she was punchy. This sweet old lady began telling the tragic story of the death of some cousin named Phil. Apparently, his death was the result of a bad fall he took. When dear Auntie said, “Phil fell,” the alliteration struck sleepy Mom’s funny bone. She tried to hold back her giggles, but that just made it worse. She sat there shaking; face turning red, and tears threatening to fall, as our aunt looked on horrified that Mom thought it was funny that Phil fell. Mom actually felt bad that Phil had fallen. It was just the words that she found funny. But once the giggle fit had started, there was no turning it off.
The more the aunt disapproved, the harder Mom laughed. Just thinking about the situation—the wrong impression the aunt had, knowing that no one knew why she was laughing– made everything even funnier to sleep-drunk Mom. Later, after she finally got control over herself, Mom was able to explain everything to her aunt. Accustomed to Mom’s quirkiness, she quickly forgave and forgot. But Mom never forgot. In fact, to this day, nearly 40 years later, all we have to do is say, “Phil fell” and Mom will instantly start cracking up.