“Stupid, stupid tears,” I mutter ducking my head and swiping at my cheek. Letting the door slam solidly behind me, I scurry down the stairs anxious to reach a private place free from prying eyes. My meltdowns are not pretty.
I wait until the courthouse is behind me and I am alone before giving in totally to my despair. “For heaven’s sake,” I say to no one but myself, “what is this all about?”
A tissue to the eyes, I wonder how come “bona-fide-feel-it-in-the-gut-blubber-and-sob tears” cannot come with a little dignity. A few can pull it off. You know the kind, a little trickle down the cheek, a gentle swipe of the finger, a self-respecting sob that evokes sympathy and care.
Not me. I am most decidedly not a dignified crier.
When I cry, I do it with gusto. My eyes puff up, my mascara runs, and my face turns intermittent, varied shades of blotchy red. Once I gather steam, I snivel and hiccup, then sob and suck air.
My tears do not gently meander, they run in torrents and unless I stem the flow, they mingle with the product of my runny nose before dripping ceremoniously off my chin. A dainty hanky is not worthy of the task. I need a handful of tissues. In their absence, I have been known to use McDonald napkins, crumpled paper, the ugly green cloth used to clean my eyeglasses.
The old fibromyalgia is kicking up its leg. Maybe that is the problem. Could be the sight of prisoners shackled together, shuffling one behind the other and the reminder of another courthouse, on another day so many years ago. I do a quick inventory in my mind searching for a reason for the tears. Hormones? No. Husband? No. Too many to-do’s? Maybe, but certainly nothing worthy of an emotional crumble.
Nevertheless, the tears continue to flow. I hasten to my vehicle, slip behind the wheel, close the door, and roll up the tinted windows hoping for anonymity. I look in the rear view mirror. Sure enough, I am a mess. Well, I reason, no sense in wasting them. If I'm gonna cry, I might as well think about something worthy of my weeping. I think of a few pressures threatening to pull me under.
Money is tight, my mom’s sick . . . that will work. My feet hurt. Might as well add that to the list. Before long, I am blubbering with the best of them.
I will do most anything to keep from crying in front of others, which explains why I practically stand on my head not to do it. I will bite my tongue, suck on my cheek, and pinch myself if necessary. There is nothing private about tears in a public venue. I can go from being a have-it-together-momma to a blubbering idiot in less than 60 seconds.
But that is okay. Really it is!
Tears are a gift. They have a way of humbling me when I forget that I am human. They are cleansing and healing. I reckon that is why God lets us cry. Someone told me once that if my head did not leak, it would pop. Whatever. . .
I like to think that, with all of my experience, I am a seasoned expert when it comes to tears. I can spot a crier a mile away – even a closet crier, which is no small feat. It takes a trained eye but for the most part, they all respond pretty much the same. They avoid eye contact, hide their face behind their hands, duck their head, and mumble untruths like, “Must be something in my eye.” Then they turn and run the other way.
What happens when the crier is confined to a wheelchair? Or, their feet cannot move beyond a shuffle?
One day not long ago, I spotted a closet crier. Molly* was sitting in her wheelchair, just around the corner from the desk where I sometimes work as Concierge at Sunrise Senior Living at Pinehurst. I am not sure what it was about her that caught my eye. Maybe a stifled sob or a flick of the finger across her cheek. Whatever it was, when I looked her way, she averted her gaze. She was quick, but not quick enough to evade detection. She ducked her head, and then tried to hide her face behind her hands.
*not her real name
Not wanting to embarrass her, I grabbed a handful of tissues, my mobile phone and made my way to her. I am certain she was not happy that I had spotted her softly crying. I wheeled her to a quiet nook away from prying eyes then, bending low, I gently probed, “What’s the matter Molly? Why are you crying?”
I deduced rather quickly that, unlike me when I am weeping, Molly is a dignified crier. Her eyes were red, but not overly so. Her tears flowed gently, not in a torrent. Nevertheless, even a novice could see that her heart was broken. She tried to minimize the pain, but once she was convinced that I really cared, she settled in my presence. I pressed the tissues into her gnarled hand. She smiled a gentle smile that did not quite reach her eyes then she dabbed at her tears and nose. “I’ll be okay.”
“Talk to me Molly. What’s wrong?”
“My family said they were coming today, but they never came.”
I wanted to cry with her. What might be a little thing to an able-bodied, busy, younger family member was huge to her. She had waited patiently all day long for them to come, and they had not come! A part of me felt a twinge of protective anger. For heaven sakes, don’t they understand that she needs them? My frustration quickly passed. Maybe Molly misunderstood. People are busy. Things happen. Maybe the slight was innocent and unintentional.
I knelt beside her chair, pulled her head close to mine and whispered, “I’m sorry Molly.” I tucked her hand in mine and we sat quietly. Once her tears were spent, she calmed. Being a seasoned crier, I know all the tricks of the trade. I slipped into the Bistro for a cool cloth to wipe her eyes. That would help the swelling as well as the red blotches on her face. I gave her a drink of water. Then I said something silly, and she smiled. This time it made it to her eyes. Within minutes, she was ready for a push back to the parlor – no worse for wear. Only a fellow closet crier would be able to detect any lingering sign of tears.
It does not happen all the time, but it does happen. When it does, I bring tissues for the eyes and nose. I assure the crier that it is okay to cry. Then I listen. The stories are rarely the same. Sometimes the tears are for a mate no longer living. Or, as with Molly, a promised visit that did not materialize. Once in awhile, it is just plain old homesickness for a community of friends and a lifestyle that is rapidly changing. Sometimes the crier just wants to go home, except there is no longer a home to go home to.
Frankly, I am glad I am not a dignified crier.
When I say, “I understand!” I really do. I have learned my lessons well. A good cry is cleansing. It is healing. A cold washcloth, a drink of water, a little time and no one is the wiser.
What never stays the same is our relationship. We are closer because we have shared a moment and a heartache. Murmured thanks are sweet, but not nearly as sweet as the bridge we have built linking her heart to mine. Forever after we can share a conspiratorial look between us that only we “get.” We are bound heart-to-heart. Blessed, blessed tears.
© Ronda Knuth