My dad is a Scotsman. He doesn’t like emotions. He is jolly, or he is angry, or he is asleep. I, on the other hand, cry over advertisements. I have excused myself from the ending of many a Neighbours episode at the hint of a teary goodbye and that god-awful Angry Anderson song “Suddenly”.
As I grew up, I tried very hard to keep a lid on my leaky face. People don’t take too kindly to criers. We’re weak; we’re contagious; we’re embarrassing. I guess I came to believe this from growing up under the parentage of a dad who may one day have on his tombstone: “If you’re going to cry, you can go outside.”
As a career girl, I avoided meetings with my manager which required me to be assertive, as there was always that chance that my lip would start wobbling and I would lose myself and the tears would fall. It’s hard to salvage your reputation once the tissue box comes out. “No really, we do need more staff … “ (sob, sob).
My eldest boy cries at the drop of a hat. Sometimes he cries because he wants to ask a question, but thinks I will say ‘No’. I try to talk him around, explain that he should always ask, I might say yes, I might say no, but there is no harm in asking. But still, the tears. Sometimes, tears and dropping to the floor in a tragic, floppy mess. Sometimes, door slamming followed by shouty, incomprehensible tears. It’s hard to know what to do. He won’t take cuddles. Sometimes I just have to ignore him, as occasionally the tears are out of proportion. But I wonder what kind of message that sends? Is ignoring as bad as asking him to take it outside?
This week a friend of our family died. It was quick and unexpected. Although I didn’t know the man well, he had worked with my dad and one of my brothers for over a decade. Through their working relationship he became like a second father to my brother, so much so that he was to give a speech at the man’s funeral.
I visited big brother at mum’s house after the funeral to wish him a happy birthday for the day before. Dad had already told me that brother had tried to give the speech, but he couldn’t: he was blubbering.
When I saw brother, he stood and was happy to see me and my entourage of happy little men. But he wasn’t really up for visitors. He kept returning to the couch to lie down. He was like a tall tree felled in the woods, lying flat and heavy and still. Not talking. Not crying. Very still.
I feel for my big brother. He was apologetic for breaking down and not giving his tribute. I found I couldn’t talk to him about it, for fear of blubbering. Instead mum and I lingered near him with wet eyes, and said very little.
I can’t help but wonder what he wanted to say about this man who had passed, but I think his tears at the funeral speak volumes. I wish I could say that to him now.