The Day I Made Taylor Laugh

Takes a pretty big set of balls to be come a step-dad, and falling in love with an emotionally fragile woman is the easy part.

Your own kids can drive you up the wall. No, that's not accurate. Your own kids can drive you to the absolute edge of your sanity, and if there is any screws loose to begin with, you are on the short trip to bat shit crazyville.

Other peoples kids piss you off. No, that's not true either. Other people's kids can turn a rational mild manner professional man in to a cold blooded sociopath. "Kick the back of my seat again little boy and we're are going to find out what's hiding under the floorboards at John Wayne Gacey's house."

So imagine sharing space with a person who is both your kid and someone else's.

And it takes a ton of emotional strength to weather being a step son, and knowing, secretly, that a stranger is having sex with your mom.

Your own dad is a hero, a flawed tragic figure of greek legend, so powerful that no one speaks of him but in hushed tones. He takes you to Disneyland and Times Square and cooks only your favorite meals.

Your step dad is an assistant principal. Dorky looking, awkwardly dressed, socially inept. Always making rules like"No running in the hallways" when you were clearly standing still. He tells you to talk quiet, eat with your mouth closed, and to go outside and play.

So the odds are stacked against us.

And when I tell you that it would be nearly impossible to find two people with as little in common with each other as me and Taylor, I am not exaggerating.

We can barely connect on the universally agreed upon experiences like food, sleep, and the weather, let alone sharing a human moment.

It hurts Joann deep that Taylor and I have never tip toed through the tulips like fathers and sons do. That we have never developed our own language or held hands in the secret society that bonds men together. And to some extent she is right. Taylor will never have with his, what I have with mine. Most likely, he will never have what his brother has with me. So her sadness is justified.

But he is fed. He is healthy. He is finding his own path through life. In essence, I have done more than most, if not all that I can, and everyone gets a participation trophy.

Yet, if you were to ask me about my regrets, I would tell you that my greatest unfulfilled desire was to make my step son laugh.

Laughter is far greater than any god, for it binds us together with joy.

Be the greatest in the world, and you have my admiration. Make me laugh and you have my soul.

However, I live on one planet, and Taylor another. And humor is not as universal as math or death or taxes. He doesn't get my jokes, nor I his, so the void between us remains.

I did make him laugh once.

He was six.

And on a short drive, with him sandwiched in the back seat between his cousins, I turned around in my seat with my finger in my nose. The three sat in momentary silence as they'd never seen an adult so blatantly search for gold. I looked at them, and then I looked at my finger.

"I thought it was a booger." I said. "But it's snot."

{hold for applause}

That ranks among the top ten moments of my life. I was twenty three and terrified I was going to lose this magnificent woman to my inexperience with children. Yet it was clear by the peels of joy and laughter whipping about he car for nearly the entire ride home that I wasn't gonna be a failure at this.

Nope. In fact. I got this shit.

So, yeah, its been a bummer that I haven't been able to recreate that moment of genius.

Until today.

Today I got a guffaw.

Today I got a giggle

An unadulterated peel of laughter.

And if history is as circular as the Mayans claim it to be, then I have another thirteen years before I have to be this funny again.

My wife in the kitchen, and I at my desk, Taylor puts "The Hunger Games" in the DVD player and begins to tell a story about how when he and his friend went to see the movie, they thought that the actors kept saying "Peter" instead of "Peeta"

"And that's not his name!" Taylor says. "His name is Peeta!"

"His name is Peeta?" I ask. Which is followed by a look of slack jawed incredulation from Taylor.

"Don't listen to him." Joann says. "Of course Josh knows his name, he's read the books twice."

"You know what would be really cool?" I say as I wonder down the hallway . . .

". . . if his middle name was Chip."

{hold for applause}

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