Friday, September 10, 2004

For many adults, tears
too precious to shed

Married with children

By Patricia Gallagher Newberry
Enquirer contributor

I don't cry much anymore.

Yes, I well up and occasionally spill over at weddings, funerals, especially horrific news stories about injured children or the desperate adults who hurt them.

Manufactured moments on TV, where actors are paid to portray deep pathos, sometimes cause a lump in the throat, as well.

But cry? Actually sob? Only once in a great while, now that I'm a sensible, level-headed, nearly middle-age adult.

I've cried once or twice over especially long and difficult days with the kids. The tears were real, but, to be honest, poured forth as much for effect as release. (Who says mothers can't match their children in manipulation?)

I recall a couple of weep-a-thons, too, over slights at work, overwrought reactions to a bruised ego. And there was a period of acute pain, and accompanying depression, that sent me crying into my pillow in sheer frustration several notable times. Beyond that, like most adults, I've learned to dam my tears against life's small disappointments and disasters.

At 43, with life moving at break-neck speed, tears seem somewhat frivolous and indulgent. They take precious time - and reflection - I'm too often unwilling to give.

Like many, I learned reticence from those around me. Growing up, I never saw my mother cry and saw my father cry just once, when an infant sister died. In our household, like most I knew, you were expected to keep your emotions in check by a certain age.

As a new parent, I remember being aghast at how much and how often children cried. In my memory, it seems ours spent most of their early weeks wailing. With three kids in four-and-a-half years, someone was always in tears.

Now grade-schoolers, my children, too, are learning to control the flow. Most breakdowns, these days, follow injustices (real or imagined), discipline, fatigue or some combination of the three.

As for myself, besides one of the really excessive jags after a brutal beating in the office, I've really only cried once since I turned 40. Three falls ago this week, I wept with the rest of America and the world on 9/11.

Today, I am visiting the city that elicited most of those tears for a convention on journalism, where journalists will no doubt talk about how the profession has changed since 2001.

Over the weekend, I hope to make my first visit to the site of the World Trade Center, where some 3,000 lost their lives.

I will, no doubt, shed a true tear for those gone and those they left behind. Then, I'll return to my home and my family - and the dried-eyed business of daily living, where I long ago decided I haven't time for the tears.


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