Do you ever start crying for no apparent reason? My family has what has been called “the puddle gene,” or what my uncle laughingly called “kidneys behind the eyes.” We cry when we’re sad, glad, mad – don’t you just love it when emotions rhyme? And I find myself crying more and more for no reason – when a song comes on the radio, bringing back a flood of memories; when I see my daughter in a situation that makes me realize how fast she’s growing up and how quickly she’ll be leaving home; when a TV commercial hits just the right nerve (like the one where the schoolchildren sing to the NY firemen – that one tore me down for an hour); when I think about people I’ve loved and lost; when I know someone else is hurting and I can do nothing to help. Heck, I cry when I write! I have lived my entire life watching immediate and extended family members cry in such a way that each and every tear was a message. And the messages are some I will never forget.
My dad’s tears very often sent the message of his love for the process of education, and his pride in both the educators and those who performed the daily chores necessary to make an educational system possible, and in his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren as they moved from milestone to milestone. My mom’s tears are rarely witnessed, but when they appear, they send the message of a strong woman who will do whatever is necessary to protect and foster her family and community. So this might make my parents sound like a saintly pair, and they are, indeed, far higher on the saintly scale than I will ever be. But they also shed tears of frustration, fear, and the occasional hurt feelings. And then there is always the ever-present flowing of tears when the laughter becomes just too much.
So, everyone knows I have this whole slew of brothers, sisters, in-laws, nieces, nephews and greats, and a very patient husband and daughter, not to mention a huge extended family. I have discussed them to the point that people probably wish I would just stop. Sadly, I can only write about what I know, and family is what I know better than anything. When I met my husband – the only child of an only child – he had never been around a big family before. The first holiday he spent with our family, I decided to just throw him to the wolves, consisting at that time of a few innocent looking tweens and teens, and a few very curious grown-ups. He fit right in with the wolves, although he never realized the look of innocence was a total facade. All was well.
About eight months later, my brother got married in a beautiful, big traditional ceremony. My uncle lit the candles, as he had at almost every family wedding (so many candles under his belt, in fact, that my brother suggested the organist play “Burn, Baby, Burn” during the candle lighting), and the waterworks were on! Our family was seated in two long pews, with me on the end, my then “boyfriend” next to me, and my uncle sliding in next to me by the aisle. My uncle had tears streaming down his face, and I couldn’t control myself as I grasped his hand and wept. Yes, this was truly a happy occasion! Seriously, it was!
I turned to look down the pew and suffice it to say, we could probably have supplied enough water to keep the Titanic afloat. I looked at my future husband, and the look on his face was somewhere between confused and frightened. He wasn’t accustomed to “the puddle gene,” and he was a little like the proverbial deer in the headlights. Sort of sad, really, that he didn’t realize he should cry out of happiness. When my dad walked my mom down the aisle, my brother walked out with my other brother by his side, and the bride was escorted to the altar, it was all over. The hankies, tissues and shirt cuffs were not enough to absorb all of the emotion rolling down cheeks of all ages.
My husband and I will have been married 26 years this November. And while I have had difficulty teaching him not to wake me unnecessarily on Saturday mornings, frustration instructing him on the necessity of disciplining our daughter, and near apoplectic fits trying to get him not to put Waterford crystal in the dishwasher, the one lesson he has learned beyond the highest of expectations is how to cry at almost anything. Yes, he is now the one whose eyes fill first when our daughter is especially loving (he hasn’t figured out that “especially loving” often comes with especially large requests). When a touching anecdote is told about a friend or relative, he is the one who bites his bottom lip and turns his head. We have taught him well.
So, the next time you think you’re someone who just doesn’t have that emotional reaction to silly things or who doesn’t burst into instantaneous tears at commercials or songs, dig a little deeper. Your tears might teach someone else it’s okay to feel deeply, or send the message that seemingly insignificant things can impact a life. Your tears are not a sign of weakness, nor are they something of which you should be ashamed. They are an expression of who you are, and everyone knows a little puddling never hurt anyone!
About the Author:
Elizabeth Downing is Director of Outreach for Timesavers Concierge, Caregiving & Chauffeur in Bowling Green. A 1982 graduate of WKU, Elizabeth is also an attorney, but found her passion in advocating and providing care for older adults and those with special needs. Elizabeth’s blog, at www.mytimesaversky.com/blog, seeks to raise awareness of issues relating to aging and caring for aging loved ones, and to let people know they are not alone in the journey. She has recently completed a Certificate in Care Management from Boston University, and facilitates two family caregiver support groups each month.