It’s March 1st and I think I’ve cried more in the past 4 months than in the last 20 years or so. Yes, I’m bragging a bit, but I’ll let it go this time. I’m generally not big on crying, mostly because if you start crying around other people it often prompts them to try to hug you. That’s anathema to me. I need space to cry, not to have my face jammed into someone’s shoulder. If I then snot all over you, that’s your fault.
I’m not sure that I see crying openly in public as a weakness, it’s more that I regard not crying as a sign of strength and moral superiority. But I’m not immune to emotional manipulation. I didn’t cry at the end of The Champ, perhaps because I knew how reprehensible Ricky Schroder would grow up to be. But I can’t watch Terms of Endearment where Debra Winger says goodbye to her kids, especially Teddy, without a few tears rolling.
I’ll also cry at shows with any kind of animal cruelty, shows about dogs helping people, shows about dogs that didn’t make the cut, shows about dogs being matched with owners, shows about dogs being rejected by owners. You get the picture. But the crying in the last few months has been different. It’s been that deep, loud, almost hysterical sobbing that kids do when having a meltdown. The type that comes in waves, that can’t be stopped. I don’t remember when I last cried this hard. It may have been on the long trek in the pouring rain from Jeff Davison’s house to my friend Amey’s house after Jeff refused my pleading to get back together and callously continued watching Crown Court on TV as I left. But that was mostly my pride. Far more painful and more recent was the loss of our beloved golden retriever, Storm in 2009. I’m well over Jeff, but will never quite get over losing Stormy.
This new round of crying started at the end of last year when I knew my 94-year-old mum wasn’t going to pull through from COVID. And because I hadn’t been able to visit her for over a year and still couldn’t. At the same time, we were getting some work done on our courtyard and it was a mess, with daily back and forth with the contractors. So I seemed to be rather devastated about whether we should be using grout or polymeric sand, and why the paver restorer cleaner was taking so long to arrive. And then mum died and the reality of not being able to go home for the funeral set in. But at least at that point the crying made sense. It felt acceptable, it had a cause. But as everyone tells you, grief loves to pop up at inopportune moments and make you look like a bit of an idiot. Grief-crying is so much worse when you’re away from the house. Like at the gym in the middle of a workout. In my defense, it was a Friday, also known as Fuck Your Friday due to the intensity of the workout. Ours being a women’s lifting group it’s not unusual to have a few teary moments in the class and our coach is brilliant at understanding that this happens and not making it a big deal. She’s also not a hugger, which really helps. But this wasn’t a few tears, this was a full-on breakdown. A sob your heart out cry. While wearing a mask. Yeah, that was lovely. And for the first time in 10 years I left the gym during a workout.
But then we had the funeral. And even though I had to watch it on a TV screen it was lovely. And afterwards I felt so much better. Yay, over it! And then a month later the hell of of heavy snow, freezing temperatures, no power and no cell reception hit us in Austin. It was cold. And isolating. And when it started to get dark, so did I. Despite Erik’s heroic efforts to make things right (the miracle of the sleeping bags, the downloaded episode of Doc Martin watched on his iPad) I was in floods ot tears at night. By night five I thought I’d totally lost it. Bear Grylls survival courses out in the wild have nothing on still being stuck in the dark and cold and seeing street lights on outside and our neighbours across the road with their power back. My sense of fairness combined with my need to be self-sufficient and in control was severely tested and I failed with flying colours. But we got through it and power and life were mostly restored. And I was okay. Yay, over it!
It was looking at photos from her 80th birthday party that broke me. I was creating a slideshow of photos for her online memorial and found this one of me, mum and Miles at her lunch, with all her friends from the village and old school friends that she stayed in touch with. I realised that I’d forgotten how she looked back then, before we had to move her to a care home. All my memories are of visiting her at the care homes, seeing her fade a little more with each visit. How could I have forgotten all the years before?
So then I had to dig out all the letters she wrote to me after I left home. Letters full of her news and asking me for mine. Wondering when I’d be coming home, wishing I would call more often. Because if the photos are going to be upsetting, then why not add to it and really give yourself something to cry about?
But the zoom memorial was lovely and it felt like I had finally closed that chapter. Crying all done with. Yay, over it.
And then we started watching ‘It’s a Sin’, the brilliant series about a group of gay men and their friends living through the 80s and the Aids epidemic. And I lost it.
Here’s to a tears-free March, and the next 20 years or so, by which point Riley will be 29 and starting to slow down.