Growing up, the most tender-hearted man I knew was my grandpa. He carried a handkerchief with him wherever he went, and couldn’t watch television without wiping his eyes perpetually. My sisters and my cousins would poke fun at him during visits when he’d ask us, “Did you kids see ‘Highway to Heaven’ last week?” As soon as the question left his mouth, he’d start dabbing at his eyes, remembering a poignant moment between Michael Landon and Victor French on his favorite TV show. My grandma rolled her eyes every time; she was the tougher of the two, and not even a little sentimental.
Growing up, I was never a crier. How anyone could be brought to tears by movies or TV shows was beyond my comprehension. (With one glaring exception: my sister Betsy and I ugly cried while watching Terms of Endearment at the dollar theater when it was released.) I remember watching my friends sobbing while watching E.T. in the theater during its first run and wondering what the hell was wrong with me that I wasn’t distraught. I wasn’t a weepy teen, and the comings and goings of boyfriends left me unaffected. I didn’t cry at my wedding or anyone else’s.
And then I gave birth to my son. Suddenly, any news story about suffering children left me with tears running down my face. Books, movies and TV shows were loaded with emotional landmines ready to leave me in tears. Something broke in me when they placed that black haired baby in my arms after 30 hours of labor. I became a crier.
This lousy habit has only worsened with age. Like my grandpa, I always carry a handkerchief. I dab at my eyes at least once a day, reading the news, social media posts or listening to the radio. The National Anthem, when sung with emotion, will wreck me. My kids will roll their eyes if they hear me sniffling, trying to disguise the fact that I’m weeping over the sound of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace.” Charity fundraising events are a nightmare. One child sharing their struggle with insert childhood disease here will reduce me to a quivering mass. It’s embarrassing, but I hypothesize that I’m working through my first 25 years of emotional repression. Or just channeling my grandpa.
My husband Steve, my inkblot, is just as bad. Every weekend, we watch CBS Sunday morning, and at least once during the 90-minute program, we’re both wiping our eyes. Steve Hartman’s segments are the biggest trigger. Hartman nods solemnly as his interview subjects tell their stories. A man succumbing to ALS gives away Krispy Kreme donuts to promote random acts of kindness, a four-year-old girl befriends a recent widower and brings purpose back to his life after loss, a college football player joins a middle-aged women’s book club to improve his reading skills. (Dear God, I’m choking up just remembering those segments.)
My husband and I have a couple of restaurants we frequent during the week. We often take laptops/iPads with us and collaborate during our midday meal. This afternoon, we sat down to lunch, and I opened Facebook on my iPad.
This video was the first post I saw.
I bit my lip, then asked Steve, “Have you seen this?”
Steve watched the first minute and asked, “Is he crying?”
I nodded and wiped away a tear.
Steve removed his glasses and started wiping his eyes. He shook his fist at me, in a show of mock anger at my provoking his emotional display in a very public place. The absurdity of the situation, the two of us crying over a man seeing color for the first time, struck me as hilarious and I collapsed in giggles, then loud laughter and finally snorting. Steve pulled the napkin from his lap to dry his tears and joined me in my hysterics. We sat there for a couple of minutes, laughing and wiping away tears from being touched by this sweet little video.
For the last six months, Steve and I have rarely spent more than a couple hours apart. It’s moments like this that make me realize I couldn’t have married a better life partner than my burly, bearded man. Over the last fourteen years, I think we’ve brought out the best in each other. I like to think my grandpa is watching us from above and wiping away tears of joy.