Weekend Wanderer: Laugh … Even if You’re Sad

weekend wanderer

“Let’s see if it’s ready yet.” 

That was Indy, on Veterans Day. Veteran Temple of Doom residents had been invited to display mementos of their military service. 

Indy wanted to display his uniform. He asked me to bring it to the ballroom.  

Willie was waiting for us. It wasn’t time to display the mementos yet, she told us. Which was, you know, helpful now that I had dragged Indy’s uniform halfway across the Temple of Doom. 

Do you know how heavy a United States Marine Corps uniform is? 

I lugged Indy’s uniform back to his apartment.  

I set the uniform down as Indy directed me to a grocery bag in his bedroom. Inside, I found a copy of Indy’s honorable discharge papers, pictures of Indy at Parris Island, and a wooden tray. 

I think we all probably keep important documents in grocery bags. They’re protected. Like The Purloined Letter

Later, the veterans were, one at a time, lauded for their service. 

Not for the first time in my life, I applauded Indy for his military career. 

It was, however, the last time I applauded Indy with Indy at my side. One month, one week, and one day later, Indy died, in his bed, with Willie holding his hand. 

Don’t cry for us, guys. Don’t you dare. Indy was a great man. 

And Indy would want us to laugh. 

There’s so much I haven’t told you about Indy. Did you know Indy was engaged before he met Willie? Her name was Betty Ann. 

Indy broke it off with Betty Ann long before he met Willie. But he remained best friends with Betty Ann’s brother, a man I called Uncle Bob. Uncle Bob and Indy were friends until the day Uncle Bob died. 

And did I ever tell you that Indy loved tools? When he moved to the Temple of Doom, Willie told him the tools couldn’t move with him. 

But I helped Indy smuggle those tools into the Temple of Doom. They’re under the bed.  

Except, you know, for the tools in his pajama drawer.  

And there’s so much I didn’t know about Indy. My sister recently asked Indy if he’d had a childhood best friend. 

He did, but they don’t talk.  

Want to know why? 

“He killed his family then set fire to their house,” Indy explained. 

Um, what?  

We asked Willie if, in fifty-four years of marriage, she had ever heard of this murderous arsonist of a best friend. 

She hadn’t. But that was Indy. Unless you said to Indy, “Hey, did your childhood best friend murder his family and set fire to their house?” you weren’t getting that story. 

Veterans Day was my last normal day with Indy. He became unconscious shortly afterward. I lived at the Temple of Doom during those weeks Indy slowly slipped from this world. 

In fact, I was told I didn’t have to sign the visitor logbook anymore. I was at the Temple of Doom so much that, in the event of a fire, I was already in the head count. 

Let me tell you something – skipping the logbook sign-in at the Temple of Doom is power.  

Real power.  

Each night, I’d curl up by Indy’s side as he whispered his final wishes. Some were predictable. Take care of Willie. Take care of yourself.  

But one day, he said, “My sword.” 

I knew it. Knew it well. He meant his Marine Corps saber. “What about it, Indy?” I asked. 

“Use it,” Indy said. 

“On, like, anybody?” I asked. Could I use it on people of my choosing? I was thinking of Colin Firth and the cathedral scene in the first Kingsman movie. Or maybe Uma Thurman in Kill Bill

“Use it in the service,” Indy said. 

Service. Got it. Cathedral scene it is. 

Willie and I cared for Indy, turning him, talking to him, brushing his teeth. I’d leave the Temple of Doom drenched in sweat, thanks to a thermostat programmed to grow bananas, tree frogs, and maybe a few howler monkeys. 

Indy’s consciousness dwindled. Willie told me someone was waiting for Indy on the other side. 

“Do you know who I think it is?” Willie asked. 

“Ooh!” I said. “Betty Ann?” 

Willie laughed, which was what I wanted, because that’s what Indy would want. 

Another day, as pythons and sloths displaced from the Amazon moved into Indy and Willie’s steaming apartment Noah’s Ark-style, Willie told me she wanted to live a little longer after Indy passed. 

“A few days at least,” I told Willie, which made her laugh again. That was good, too, because it wasn’t even my best material. 

And when Indy was gone, we went to the funeral home. We made our plans and told our stories. The funeral director said Indy had a beard. Should he keep that beard? 

“No!” we said in unison. The beard Indy wore when he died was Don Johnson circa Miami Vice. Which is, like, the third-best Don Johnson.  

The first-best Don Johnson was Don Johnson in Tin Cup. That’s how we wanted Indy to look. Clean-shaven. 

Do we really need to talk about the second-best Don Johnson? I mean, come on, guys.  

Then the funeral director told us Indy had also come in with a flashlight. 

Of course, Indy had a tool on him when he died. Of course, he did. Did we want Indy buried with the flashlight? 

Um, no. I’ve seen enough horror movies to know that if Indy has joined the undead, you don’t want his trip out of the grave made easier. What, are you going to light the way for Indy to come eat your brains? No. No flashlight. 

December 21, 2022 was the third day of my life without Indy. I made a cup of tea, because tea fixes everything. I turned on the news. Matt Pellman on WPVI said that, due to the solstice, this was National Flashlight Day. 

I laughed. “Thank you for that, Indy,” I said.  

My dad was United States Marine Corps Master Sergeant David Haines Pope. My dad loved to laugh. 

So laugh for Indy. Laugh with Indy. 

I’ll do my best to get you there. 

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