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River Town Chronicles: Laughter – The Fountain of Youth’s Old Faithful

A friend recently told me that he had met the previous morning with someone “really old.”

“He must have been 68,” he added, nailing my age exactly.

“Practically dead,” I thought about quipping, but decided instead to bear my grief in silence.

“Maybe disabled,” my so-called friend mumbled, working around the foot in his mouth. “He had a cane.”

Which is what, if having one, I would have used to beat my ex-friend’s pate until he showed more empathy for the aged. However, given his relative immaturity, his mid-50s, I took his comment for what it was – ignorant.

Because I feel great. Oh, sure, sitting more than a few minutes, once I stand up, my knee works like the rusted, oil-thirsty gears of a grandfather clock. Or if I stand over the sink too long washing dishes, my lower back wonders why someone wedged a pair of ice crampons between L-4 and L-5.

What keeps me feeling young? Funny you should ask. No, seriously! Funny is the answer; I try to see the comedy in life.

Of course the best humor comes out of nowhere, such as an unannounced pratfall. Take last week, when I’m talking to a pharmacist about getting my flu vaccination.

“Did you get the high dosage last year?” she asks, searching her computer. “Oh, here it is. Yup. Want to go with the same thing?”

“Let’s give it a shot,” I say.

A short silence follows, the phrase sinking in – so to speak – then she laughs, and I do, too, a community of two enjoying one of life’s small treasures, unexpected mirth.

Some people don’t cotton to puns, but for good or boll weevil, they’ve always plagued me. When I was 13, I was forced to go to our nation’s Siberia, coastal Maine, where The Winter Harbor Reading Camp for six weeks drilled into my fellow inmates and me that reading was something more than a soporific.

As a treat, once a week the school walked to the yacht club for dinner. Because I’d grown somewhat reputable for telling bad puns, the room began to chant my name, demanding me to serve one up.

“Out in California,” I began, standing, “there was an earthquake that didn’t last long, but forced fruit up out of the ground. Yeah, really. They called it a ‘strawberry short quake.’”

The uproarious laughter and applause that followed gives you an idea of what passed for yuks in that expensive prison.

Don’t believe me that funny curtails aging? “Laughter truly is the best medicine when it comes to keeping us feeling physically, mentally and emotionally young as we age,” Huffington Post’s Alena Hall references Jeffrey Briar, co-founder of, get this, the Laughter Yoga Institute, and author Carol Wyer. “It’s like any muscle … you have to exercise, you have to work at it.”

“Speaks what he knows of, Jeffrey Briar, he does.” Oh, no, wait – that’s a quote from the Laughter Yoda Institute. Sorry I am.

Rick Holinger lives in Geneva, teaches English at Marmion Academy and facilitates a local writing workshop. His fiction, essays and poetry have appeared in numerous literary journals. Contact him at

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