BY: Nancy Fraioli – “Queen of Ageless Wisdom”
This is what I know about laughter…it makes us feel good! I also agree with Lord Byron, “Always laugh when you can, it is a cheap medicine!” I am not in the medical field; I can only relate to you all that I’ve read about “laughter” and how our bodies, minds, souls, depend on the rewards of deep laughter.
From a medical perspective, laughter is a stress reducer; it triggers the release of the endorphins, (the body’s natural feel-good chemicals). Our endorphins give us a sense of well being and can temporarily relieve pain. Laughter strengthens our immune system, boosts our moods to good, diminishes pain and protects us from the damaging effects of stress. Yes, laughter does lighten our heavy load(s).
Laughter has many social benefits as well. It strengthens relationships and attracts us to others. Laughter can enhance teamwork, promote group bonding and help defuse conflict. Like orange and lemon zest add flavor to a favorite dish, laughter increases and enhances enjoyment in our lives. Did you know that if you laugh, ten or fifteen minutes a day, you can burn about forty calories! Hey, not a lot but every little bit helps! So, we can safely say, laughter can lighten anyone’s load! While I agree that laughter is a great muscle relaxer, I take exception to an article I read that laughter can prevent heart disease! Here’s where I take another path! I want to share with you some “real life stories” that I’ve lived through and about the beautiful laughter that I experienced for thirty-three years. What better place than The Daily Feels to reveal ‘the feels’ of laughter!
“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.” Victor Hugo
I married a man that had the gift to make people, of all ages, laugh on a scale like none other! He loved being with his older brothers, sisters and my family. They were his go-to audience as well as The Knights of Columbus and golfing friends. He told more stories and always ended on a high note…..feel good laughter. He was blessed with the gift of laughter and humor and shared it with everyone!
On October 1, 1987, Larry, myself and Larry’s sister and husband traveled to Italy to visit the country with Pirrello Tours and after the tour, go on to visit Larry’s oldest sister and family. The fiasco began at JFK and just continued. I relate all of these happenings to you via my written memories (notes)! I’ll just share our entrance to Milan’s airport and the Pirello group tour waiting for us! Waiting..waiting..! We seemed to be always last! Anyway, after we ‘finally’ got our luggage, we proceeded to look for the “YELLOW BUS” as we were told to do! We looked until we were weary-eyed! No yellow bus! Can you imagine how the people on the yellow bus must have felt? Waiting!? Already, we were forty-five minutes late! Suddenly, throughout the Milan airport comes an announcement; FRAIOLI, over and over again! We looked at each other and continued our hunt for the yellow bus! Finally, a big blue bus pulls up; the driver looks at us with anger and his three right fingers bunched upward said, “Sei FRAIOLI?” I gave Larry a little pinch and whispered, they’re not happy! He looked at the three of us and said, ”don’t say a word!” So, when Larry got on the bus, he asked all the tour people, “we were told to look for a yellow bus, now does this look like an “F…..ing yellow bus” to you? NO, it’s a blue bus with a yellow sign!” Give me a break!!! Well, all hell broke loose! We found our laughing fun friends quickly and all went well! Our entrance into Italy!
One Fall Saturday, Larry and I were going to go visit his older sister and family up in New Britain, Connecticut. Our daughter, Paula, had been invited to a party so didn’t come with us. It was one of those gorgeous New England Fall days. Mary, his sister, always had coffee waiting for us. Now, you have to picture my brother-in-law….from Italy, very strict about how women should dress and act! Mary, his wife was a very pretty woman, always dressed picture perfect! Even when she cooked, canned or worked in the garden! When Larry came to town, his sister always invited the Italian relatives to visit; they loved my husband! He entertained them with his jokes, stories in Italian! While I was with Mary, in her basement kitchen, showing me how many tomatoes they had canned, Larry was with all the friends, holding court in the upstairs kitchen. When I walked in, he was sitting on a stool, in the middle of the room, telling ‘the group’ Italian stories and they were laughing uproariously and loving it! Since I couldn’t understand their dialect, I was at a loss! Oh yes, they knew that my Italian roots were Southern! You see, they were from North Italy, close to Rome and they frowned upon the Calabrian accent. But it was the laughter that united us! They were all very kind and appreciative that my husband was genuinely interested in each and every one of them. They too loved to laugh! Laughter is a language everyone understands and is infectious.
When we returned to Harrison, our town, we had to pick up our daughter Paula. She said she felt sick and we just looked at each other. She really was sick and we got home just in time for the ‘bathroom’ visits! We bedded her down and in an instant, I became very ill! Larry was beside himself! He said you could not have caught anything from Paula this fast!!! Maybe sympathy pains? Anyway, I passed out and hit the floor. He’s banging on my chest to revive me and telling me not to get on the bed! He was worried I’d mess it up! Now, he was frightened and told me he was calling the Harrison Police. He thought we should go to the hospital, meanwhile, he’s running around hiding all my purses, for fear we might be robbed! In his hour of panic, his humor was trying to save him!
The madness pursued! We, three piled in the back of the police car. The car felt like it was 200 degrees and they had the heat on the highest position, making us feel far worse than we were. Thank God I thought to take two large towels in case we needed them! We did and the cops went zooming faster. I think we took all of North street on two wheels. The curves did not help! The Harrison cops could not wait to drop us off! My thought was: they were afraid we had a communicable disease! A ride from hell! Dump us, they did!
The next scene was even better! Two Dr.’s met us and the one with the corkscrew white frizzy hair asked my husband…so what’s wrong with her? Oh no, I thought…wrong question! Yup, Larry’s response, “If I knew that, we wouldn’t be here?” I asked Larry to take Paula home; take care of her. I’ll be fine. I stayed there for four days. They couldn’t figure it out. But in the quiet of my mind, I went over that day’s events. We had clams, sauce, and pasta! I deduced that I may have had a tainted clam! Till this day I’m not a fan of clams! When Larry retold this story, many times I may add, he embellished it, added expletives and received accolades galore! It was scary but Larry made it sound like a page out of the Ralph Kramden storybook.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my dear Ohio cousins, Chuck, and Buck who also adored Larry. As a trio, they were unbeatable with their antics! They, too, had the gift of making people laugh. Buck was more humorous, very very dry-witted; as dry as the last leaf of Autumn! Chuck was more like Larry, a brilliant storyteller! When these three got together, it was like going to a Laugh-in concert! Our Ohio reunions were always at Buck’s farm and they were humdingers! I’ll never forget one of Buck’s comments….after we had all filled ourselves with good food, drink, and merriment we wanted to pitch in and help clean up! I asked Buck where I could put the garbage? He, nonchalantly said, …let the ants drag it out in the morning.
“We are all here for a spell, get all the good laughs you can.” Will Rogers
Chuck visited us in Harrison many, many times. He was a paid fireman in Ohio but he had a lot of time off and worked other jobs. One of which was delivering busses and vehicles for Superior Coach! On one visit, Chuck had to deliver a white bus and he stayed overnight. This particular bus was going to the Middle East. On another visit, since he had a late start and asked us not to wait up, we left the door unlocked, (the days when we could safely do so), and I’ll see you at breakfast. At breakfast, we chatted and Chuck wanted to know if I had a makeup kit and could he use it? Of course, but by now I was wondering why?? I mean he didn’t use makeup!! Well, I want to apply it to Larry’s face and take him for a ride in the vehicle I have in your driveway! Oh oh! We ran out to the driveway. Yup, I couldn’t believe it!!! A hearse!!! His idea was to parade Larry thru town! Not one neighbor called!? Weren’t they wondering?
My daughter just reminded me of the best story of all! The night we were invited to our friends home, the Accocello’s, to jar hot peppers with other friends, the Gaudelli’s, the Marino’s and us. When we arrived our hosts explained to us how this was all going to work. As the jar is passed, add the peppers, oil, condiments, and cap! We had to wear plastic gloves for a couple of reasons: sanitary and burning the hands! The peppers were HOT! After a while, we ladies got tired so we went upstairs to prepare a midnight feast!
Food, wine, beer, and coffee! The guys joined us. We all sat down to this lovely table; Larry was missing! In one minute he flew up the stairs and grabbed the back of my shirt, yanked me and said, “let’s go…now!” I was in shock! Why?
The guys just looked at each other, then to me and said, Larry didn’t wear the gloves and he was just in the bathroom! He’s burning!!! Do you need a detailed picture? We got home in minutes; flew through two red lights! When we got home he told me the area and how he was on fire! I thought, perhaps, cool compresses!! Forget about that! I had him lay on our living room rug, on a white sheet with a cool towel. I called up the Accocello’s and Paul Marino got on the phone. Nancy, you have to get a tall glass of milk and dunk the burning part into the milk!!!! Larry was suffering but I was hysterical, actually doubling over with laughter! So, Paul, I said,” you mean like a donut?” He melted to the floor with laughter!! Well, we tried that! It took a long time for relief to set in. Finally, I just had to ask, why in God’s name did you not wear the gloves??? He hated the gloves! You are unbelievable! Dunkin’ donuts took on a new meaning!
There is an arsenal of teenage stories as well as neighborhood stories. He and his neighbor friends grew up together and in and out of each other’s homes. The “Strawberry Patch Kids”… The Saturday night movie episode; where you plop your feet on a rail which prevents you from falling flat on your face, well, it happened. The guys and their heavy feet loosened the rail. When Nini, the skinniest girl, took her seat and placed her feet on the rail, it was so loose it fell out, clanged to the floor! The guys scattered to the exits. (That’s how they got in)!
Walter’s hot dog story; their high school was across from Walter’s and the students were not allowed to leave the school grounds. The skinniest kid got elected to get pushed thru the bathroom window to buy hot dogs! Guess who? Larry!
The exception I took at the beginning of the story, that laughter prevents heart disease; I think Larry was born with it. Maybe his laughter kept him afloat for his fifty-six years! Larry, Chuck, Buck, Bob, Peter, and Paul; they all left the party too early. But, they were their own party! If you knew Larry or of him, you may have your own ‘Larry story!’
Larry died instantly. He spent his last day on earth doing his two favorite things; golfing and laughing! I’d like to think that God was there waiting to fetch him and said, “I’m not the …. yellow bus” but I’ve got a few golf courses up there! In memory of Larry, whether you knew him or not, keep laughing, it’s the best medicine there is and it makes you feel good!
A year later, Larry was honored with a luncheon at the Hartsdale Golf Course. My cousin Bobby, the gentleman who played golf with Larry on his last day, escorted me. When we arrived, Bobby explained that this is an informal luncheon, so you pick the place where we should sit! I did. A lovely spot overlooking the course. Midway through lunch, I asked Bobby “where was Larry when he passed?” Bobby looked at me and said, “where you’re sitting!” Yes, Larry had the last laugh!
Nancy Fraioli is a retired Benefits Asst. from Town/Village of Harrison, NY. She’s alive and well, residing in Sarasota with her daughter and family and enjoying the Floridian lifestyle daily.
Her passions are writing, reading books of philosophy, children’s stories and poetry. Her deep love is living, learning and sharing how faith, meditation, and music guide her daily life. And she loves to lunch with the ladies!