I am about to turn 62, and I finally can openly acknowledge what I have known for a long time. I am a crybaby. It feels like I am in a 12 step program and I am in a meeting saying out loud “Hi, my name is Randy, and I am a crybaby.” “Hi Randy!”, they respond.
Why the sudden revelation? There has been a lot of change in my life in the last couple of years. Some wonderful, some not so wonderful. I have found myself on the verge of tears but something inside me stops me – something that has stopped me for 60+ years.
“Men don’t cry,” I’m told. “Crying is a sign of weakness,” I am reminded. “Suck it up, buttercup,” I am mockingly told.
Growing up, I was ridiculed by the other kids because I would cry over little things. I just could not help it. One particular classmate was merciless in his taunts.
Looking back, I know that this was the beginning of my attempts to be stoic whenever these situations came up. It comes from a deep troubling place in my life, which one day I will share in detail. It’s nothing horrific, but I missed out on a huge part of my childhood because of the responsibilities that I was asked to take on being raised by a single mom. More about that later.
I remember sitting in a movie theater watching Forrest Gump, and right after Jenny dies, my daughter Jessica turns to me and asked “Are you crying?” My immediate response was a quick denial. She knew different. I was in a dark room thinking that I could hide the emotions that had come out unexpectedly.
Most times I can hold it in really well. When my mother passed away, I should have broken down immediately. She was my mom after all. But I needed to be strong to help out my dad, who for quite a while was in a state of shock. So during the days leading up to the funeral I held it in, being the strong one for my dad, my brother, and my half-siblings. I delivered the eulogy, and although many people in the chapel were crying, I held it in.
Fast forward to five years later, when my dad passed, I became the default head of the family, so of course, I had to help plan the funeral and arrange for the closing of his estate. One more eulogy, one more tear less event. It was so tear less as a matter of fact, that I was accused of not caring for my dad because I was not distraught. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It’s just that it was expected (or so I thought) that I put on the facade of a person that had it all together and made decisions without emotion.
The problem is that when you hold it in for so long, you never know when it is going to come out. Something totally innocuous, like a sad picture, some melanchonic music, or a fleeting memory will make me just flat out burst into tears. During moments when I am really tired, or really sick, those emotions come to the surface and they want to come out. This is certainly part of the issue I have had in the past with battling clinical depression.
It’s getting better, though. I have a loving wife who has convinced me that it is ok to cry. It’s normal. It’s not unmanly. In fact, it is an important coping mechanism. We have been together a long time, but it is finally soaking in. It’s OK!
So look at me. A crybaby, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
I can say that I cried at my daughters’ weddings as I gave them away. I cried at the birth of my grandchildren, at the loss of my dogs over time, and I was a crying fool when I watched the ending of “Coco” with my family last Thanksgiving.
Today, when I heard of the shootings in Florida where 17 kids (so far) were killed, I shed a tear, especially when I found out that two of the victims hit close to home. They were part of the Young Women’s program that my daughter’s friend is involved with at church. As the tears came, I realized that the wall was coming down.
Why did it take so long to realize this? I don’t know, but maybe I will go have a big cry over it.