Tuesday, May 5, 2009

On Conjuring Tears

I have never been much of a crier. Even as a child, I don’t remember many times when tears would surface, let alone actually expending the effort necessary to roll down my cheek and drip onto my shirt. After my dad died, I can honestly say I cried even less than before. Not initially, of course. During those first few days I cried like a nine-year-old who had just lost his father. And rightly so. But after that, I tended to suppress the tears. I think it was my way of dealing with the pain.

Ignore it and it will go away.

Ironically, the moments when I most often allowed the tears to at least surface typically occurred during a particularly sad song or an emotionally charged tv show or movie. (There’s still one domestic overhaul show I refuse to watch for that very reason). You know, those times when I couldn’t see it coming ahead of time. But by age 29, I had gotten pretty good at forcing my tears into submission.

Now, lest you think I am some sort of heartless monster, I did cry during some momentous occasions in my lifetime. I bawled like a baby when I first caught sight of my bride at the end of that long church aisle almost eight years ago. I cried unashamedly almost three years later when the doctor announced “It’s a girl” and the nurse called me “Dad” for the first time. And, of course, I cried at the funerals of three grandparents, an uncle, a close friend/neighbor, and a favorite teacher during the course of those years as well. But other than that, my tears were mostly reserved for music and movies.

All of that changed one day in February, 2007, when my life was turned upside-down. Suddenly, the man who kept his emotions under lock and key in a sealed room with a barricaded door, wept uncontrollably for all to see. And because of the way the arrangements were made, it went on for a week with seemingly no end in sight. Though I quickly learned how to cry safely (every time I stepped to the bathroom or took a shower worked well), I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go back to being that emotionally-stilted person I had once been.

Over time, the tears have come less often. And when they do appear, they are less reflective of the raging torrents they once were. But they still come. Usually in the car. And most often on Mondays.

And to reassure those of you who are concerned that this must indicate that I am not allowing my daughter to see me cry, rest assured. There are plenty of occasions with her where I allow my tears to not only well up, but to gently spill over as well. Usually when I am reading her scrapbooks to her. Day of the week varies.

Still there are times when I know the tears are there, but it’s as if they’ve gone into hiding. My emotional state is outwardly composed, but inwardly in tumult. And I know that a “good cry” would help balance them out.

That’s when I turn to my old stand-by: music.

There are several songs that can conjure my tears, but one in particular is so emotionally gripping that I can scarcely keep them in. The cd is close-at-hand in my car for those moments when I just need to cry. Which I still do from time to time. But always alone.

That’s why I was caught completely off-guard last week on the way home from daycare/preschool. We were listening to a cd her uncle had sent her, when she asked me to play a certain song. It’s a particular favorite of mine (and one I have posted here before), so I sang along.

It wasn’t until the song ended that I realized she was crying.

There was no forewarning this time. We had not been talking about her mommy moments before. We had been listening to some other, more upbeat songs on the cd.

No warning at all.

But afterward, we did talk about her mommy. We listened to the song another time before we reached our house. And by the time we got inside, she was ready to play and watch tv.

Listening to that song had done for her the same thing that listening to other songs does for me. It helped her conjure her tears so that she could move out from under the veil of her emotions, grieve freely, and return to her more “balanced” self.

The ironic thing about the whole situation is that my daughter has no way of knowing that I do this. This is something she has figured out on her own, just as I did. I can’t help but think that this came about because we are a lot alike.

I always imagined I would have a daughter who was like a little female version of me.

I just never imagined it would extend to how she grieved.


  1. you are a wonderful father. talking to her, letting her cry, letting her know you cry....letting her grieve and do it from the safety of your love is a sacrifice that you will never regret. you will see your wife in her. you will see yourself in her. she will look to you as an example of how she will and should expect other men, when she is grown, to treat her. a man who cries for his wife is a hero in his daughter's eyes.

    i also have a couple of songs that never fail to bring tears. if i knew how to put songs on my own site, you could hear them. i'll ask my son to walk me through it. the one that my husband sang to me himself and we'd dance to is "(I'll Give You) A Daisy A Day." we'd dance and he would whisper in my ear that he would love me forever.

    music can reach us sometimes when nothing else can.

  2. She hated to see me cry. It was overpowering at 2.5. I wasn't as good as you, didn't show her as much.

    That song from Toy Story always gets me.

    You always sound so calm and wise.

    Thank you.



  3. womanNshadows - I have found a lot of comfort in music. I have also found found a lot of sorrow in it as well.

    My daughter is actually a good mixture of her mother and me. It's comforting to see the ways she is like each of us and how that blends to make her the unique and wonderful little girl she is.

    Thank you for your kind words.

    Supa - I don't always feel like I show her enough, but I do at least try to let her know the love we shared. I think that will be important for her to know as she grows up.

    I still can't sing that song all the way through without getting choked up.

    I don't know if I'm calm or wise, but I appreciate the comliment all the same.