Is it the stage of life or the season, or is it just me? I'm not sure what's going on, but lately it seems I keep making people cry. I'm one of those people who cries when I see someone near me crying—it's contagious like yawning—so I have had to choke back a few tears recently. I suppose I could just join them, but I prefer to shed tears in private. You can politely conceal a yawn, but it's difficult to hide blubbering.
Yesterday, I had lunch with a woman who wanted to thank me for some graphic design work I had done for her. I wouldn't accept cash, so we agreed on lunch instead. We don't know each other well, so the subject matter was uncertain. She's conservative in every area of life except her stand on immigration, so I wanted to be careful what topics I introduced. With one hand tied behind my back, I threw out Alzheimer's disease. Nice, huh? Want to meet me for a sandwich? I'm a load of laughs.
Alzheimer's led to death, which led to the idea that children who live away from their extended families don't see the normal progression of aging and the process of dying as part of life. They attend the funerals of their grandparents, and it's a sudden blow with not much warning and no time to ease into the future loss. That, of course, led to specific examples, and when my friend talked about her own father's funeral, she cried, even though it happened years ago and she wasn't particularly fond of the abrasive man who left scars on her childhood memories.
Later in the afternoon, I interviewed two Small Town teachers, a married couple who are retiring this year after 40 years of teaching. Come August when school starts again, these people are going to be in for a real adjustment. The wife seemed fine with it, almost giddy, but the man wasn't so sure. I got the impression he would like to stay on for a little while longer. When I asked him what he thought he might miss most about teaching, he didn't sob, but he got teary eyed and said that he knows someday he'll walk past a 12-year-old kid, and the kid won't know who he is, and that will really eat him up. 40 years is a long time to devote yourself to one task and to be known by every kid in town and by their kids after them.
I thought that interview would be delightful with two exhausted people ready to start a new life, but it was more about a man feeling as though he has used up his usefulness and doesn't know what he'll do with himself now that he's been squeezed dry. I think he'll be fine because I don't believe his wife is going to let him wallow in that pity for long, but I left with an urgent need to take in every single moment of every day and use it for all it's worth because someday I'll be in a stage when I'll feel as though I've got nothing left.
Last night at dinner, one of the women at the table referred to last week's newspaper article about generational motherhood—she was one of the subjects of the story who cried during the interview and subsequently made me cry, and she said people have been stopping her to tell her they were choked up by the story, some of them actually shed tears.
Enough, already. Really! We've had a long, gray winter, but it's nearly summer. The dogwoods have bloomed, and the birds are going nuts out in the yard with all of their territorial chirping. So, why do we all keep crying? Maybe it's inner weather more than outer weather that's doing it—if that's the case, bring on inner summer, and fast.