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Knocking on Wood

October 13, 2008

My son recently told me that he’s never seen me cry. He doesn’t think I can cry or that I know how to cry or that I would have reason to cry. This shocked me but I suppose it was true. There have been precious few reasons to cry since his birth three years ago.

He wasn’t at the memorial service for his great-grandfather last winter. He was at the internment in the spring but I was wearing sunglasses while we sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic in the beautiful sunshine. He stood listening, swaying with his big sister and our voices but he didn’t see my eyes.

He didn’t notice me crying in the operating room on the morning he was born, when we discovered we had a little boy, a healthy little boy. He didn’t notice my tears when my wife immediately threw away our choice for a boy’s middle name and suggested we give him mine, which was also my grandfather’s.

He wasn’t awake just this past September 11th as I stayed up very late to watch a documentary on public television about that terrible day in 2001 and tears creeped into my eyes at the horrible memories of that morning.

My daughter is two years older than my son and it’s probably the same story with her.

I guess we tend to hide our tears from our kids and I’m not sure that’s always the right thing. Maybe it would be good for them to see their parents cry sometimes, in happy times and in sad times, too. Just so they know that yes, we know how to cry, just like they do.

The night their great-grandfather passed away, my wife came back to the dinner table from getting the phone call telling her the news and she had tears in her eyes. My kids saw that and their serious concern impressed me. She soon went to be with her parents a few miles away, to see her grandfather one last time, and to say goodbye. After she left, the kids asked why she was crying and I sat at the table with them both looking to me for answers to something they’d never really had to consider. I had no great answers to fit inside their happy little worlds. They didn’t notice my tears then for some reason, though they were there as I tried to explain something about what it meant to “die” to these two little kids who at the time could only consider death as it related to Mufasa in The Lion King. They didn’t notice my eyes as I began to realize that what I was telling them that very moment was likely making them just a little less innocent, as the reality of life slowly made its way over the beautiful bliss of being a young child in a family full of love, like a sweeping tide slowly covers up the playful beach over the course of the day.

You can’t hold back the tide, just like you can’t hold back the real world from becoming a part of your kids’ lives. All you can do is ensure you’re right there with them for as long as possible, holding their hands, answering their questions, and maybe even showing them that we do know how to cry.

One Comment leave one →
  1. japhy99 permalink
    October 13, 2008 6:25 pm

    So true, so very true.

    And I think you’re seeing, as I am, what your next novel is going to center around…

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