His hand was entirely too shaky to carry the spoon from his plate to his mouth without spilling anything, but he was going to try anyway. My grandfather, then well into his 80’s, was attempting to transfer an escargot, which shook along with his elderly hand, while I held my breath, waiting for the inevitable.
Sure enough, somewhere over his napkin but before his silk tie, white button-down shirt and pressed suit jacket, the escargot landed square in his lap.
He didn’t look up. He didn’t blush. He didn’t appear the least bit flustered by his faux pas in the middle of a fine restaurant, the kind with sommeliers and fresh linen tablecloths.
Instead, he scooped up the escargot with his left hand, popped it into his mouth and announced, “Somebody pushed me.”
Now that’s how to make a mistake with grace and a dose of humor. And it runs in the family.
On Monday, I drove my mom into Manhattan to see her neurologist, who oversees my mom’s Parkinson’s disease. It’s a degenerative disease, which means that no matter what you do, it’s gonna get worse. As a result, Parkinson’s patients often have a high rate of depression, what with the worry that they won’t be able to walk without shuffling, smile without cooperation from their face muscles and eat without food winding up in their laps.
So you’d think my mom would feel a little down after her quarterly visit to the neurologist. Except, we always turn it into fun by entertaining each other (and her doctor) not only in the office, but also at our favorite Italian restaurant nearby. It helps that she brings the funny.
When she got up to use the ladies’ room after dessert on Monday night, our waiter appeared at our table, giggling.
“Who is she?” he asked, pointing to my mom’s empty plate.
“My mother,” I answered, waiting for the punchline.
“I love her!” he said, and proceeded to tell me that when my mom started to accidentally push the door open to the men’s room, he and the other waiters steered her toward the ladies’ room.
“She said, ‘But I might meet someone’!” he laughed, slapping his thigh. “She’s funny!”
“Yes, that’s my mother,” I answered, swigging the last of my iced tea. That’s my family.
Lucky for me, they’ve passed along this personality affliction, which I used when I took a rolling dive across 58th Street outside CNN last winter. When a witness praised my “spectacular roll,” I told him, “I am a stunt double for the Real Housewives of New Jersey,” and headed into Starbucks, wiping the rubble off my knees.
Somebody pushed me.
But we believe that if you don’t laugh at your mistakes, life isn’t as much fun. And by “we,” I mean the next generation of us, too. Case in point:
Can you laugh at your mistakes? Can your kids? (At theirs, not yours. Yours is a given.)