Get out your handkerchiefs

Don’t Cry For Me  Por Favor-hor: These are my working conditions. (Sob.) I have to paint around big fat furry kitty butts.

But I digress. The thing I wanted to discuss today was something that nobody ever told me about getting older. Which is, the older you get, the more things make you cry. What is up with that?

I think I went through the first 20 years of adulthood (age 19 to 39) without crying more than three times. TOTAL. (Because of cats: the older I get, the more it sucks that we have to outlive our pet kitties. If we are lucky.)

But then I turned 40, and little things started to make me cry. TV COMMERCIALS started to make me cry. And now, I’m lucky if I can make it through a week without puddling up.

I did a talk on Tuesday night (it went well — whew) and I had to drop part of it because I didn’t think I could do it without crying: I have a thing about hugging trees. I love to hug trees. And there’s a special tree here on Long Island that is extremely worthy of hugging, a hundred-year old American Elm tree (you know how 100 million elm trees died in the 1950s due to Dutch Elm disease? Well, there’s one elm tree here on Long Island that has so far escaped the disease and it’s the first elm tree that I  have ever hugged and lo, there is nothing like putting your arms around a lone elm tree…). Yes, I talked about the elm tree on Long Island, but I couldn’t bring myself to talk about THIS elm tree http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010/01/08/us/AP-US-The-Old-Man-and-the-Tree.html 

because it was only going to make me cry.

And then my friend Melinda sent me a YouTube video that made me cry and it ISN’T EVEN ABOUT CATS:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ds8ryWd5aFw

And when all those people in Chicago did that flash mob thing for Oprah’s first show this year? Forget about it: I was bawling like a baby. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQ3d3KigPQM

(OK, the Oprah thing is here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvljD0toJmU   )

The other wierd thing about getting older is that I laugh more: I’ve been watching TV sitcoms for…what? 40 years? 50 years? (Ouch.) And I have NEVER laughed out loud while watching them, even when Barney Fife was being his most braggadocious, or when My Favorite Martian got himself in a right pickle, or when Davy Jones got the punch line to any one of the Monkees’ jokes.

Except now. Now I can’t get through an episode of Community (NBC, Thursday nights at 8) , or The Big Bang Theory (CBS, Monday nights at 9:30) , or Flight of the Conchords (HBO Whenever) without laughing. OUTLOUD.

Am I getting stupid?

Or am I just getting old? Old enough to realize, in a way that I never could when I was young, that happiness is so very accidental, so much a happenstance of chance and fleeting moments and hard work, that I can only cry (or laugh) at the bravery of those who  make joy out of this sad and angry and doomed old world? (Bad news this week from Haiti, from the Massachusettes special election, from the Supreme Court ruling about corporate funding for elections: I just want to cry.) Those people who dance in their winter coats, who love a tree for 50 years, who hit those high notes, who make us laugh — I think they are more death-defying than prayer or “art” or stone monuments. I think they are love, and kindness — and that gets me.

Oh jeeze. Am I getting nice in my old age?     That’s so not like me.

15 comments to Get out your handkerchiefs

  • As someone a few years older than you (just a few, mind you), I can attest that yes, we cry more and laugh more with age. I was a non-crier, too, stoic as a Hun. But now I’m a marshmallow. I just got Rita Mae Brown’s memoir about the animals in her life, and didn’t read one word because I knew there was gonna be a whole lot of cat-dyin’ and cryin’ (me).

    I am still grieving over Xenia, still miss her in my office, even though she drove me nuts and kept me from producing two coherent thoughts most of the time. Winchester strolls in my office, but only to remind me it’s lunch time (at 10:00). Xenia lay at my feet or on my lap (try typing around cat ears).

    If I see a tree chopped down, it’s like my own arm cut off. This week bulldozers are knocking down two post-war bungalows, just like my grandparents lived in, to make way for something hideous like a Starbucks or car wash. Watching those houses being murdered causes me genuine pain. So yes, the sensitivity factor goes up with age but then I think it levels off. How do old people (older than us) stand it when their relatives and contemporaries leave this world? They seem to take it in stride more.

    Yes, it’s the little moments that snag us, reel us in. The painting of your cats on your table is wonderful! Don’t you love the way they knock down and level off the “sacredness” of our work?

  • Barbara Lemme

    I think “age” means we don’t care so much about what others think of us. We can relax and let our emotions flow. That, to me, is one of the advantages of age. I won’t go into the disadvantages! Let them go. Be nice it you want; it will keep people guessing and want to know what comes next.

  • “A very belated Happy Birthday to you
    Happy Birthday to you
    Squashed tomatoes and stew,
    Bread and butter in the gutter
    Belated Happy Birthday to You!!”

    I’m in floods now……tears not rain! ‘Tho rain it has been doing…yes..in floods!

  • I love the painting of the cats on your desk, and desk chair. No place to sit, Ha. I am a single mother, and every other weekend my two human girls go to their father’s house. That leaves my old dog, Lily (12) and my old kitty, Happy Bunny (14). They, as my 17 year old pointed out, are my true-blue by my side companions.

    As for laughing and crying and elm trees (I saw that article on the Maine elm), I was on a bus to Logan (from my home in NH), that played Three Stooges videos for two hours. Contrary to popular belief, men are not the only ones who laugh at The Tree Stooges. Okay, so Moe’s violence is awful, but I love Curly. He makes me laugh out loud. His physical humor, his mewls and feints. And last week I cried at my poetry workshop while reading a poem. Got all choked up. It surprised me and made me feel sheepish, but I read on. Poetry is making me cry.

  • Maybe as we age we care less about what people think of us, but more about each other. We develop more imagination about the sufferings of others as we accumulate our own experiences.My male friends admit they cry at commercials now. I love that. I think the crying stems from empathy..maybe nostalgia for the past too, or wistfulness for what might have been.
    Nothing makes me cry harder than courage in others though, or kindness or a display of common decency. I don’t cry over politics though. Just swear enough to blister my mouth..WTF Massachussets?

  • Thanks for the article and the youtube videos. I loved the opera at the mercado one and I’m not even an opera fan. It’s just so cool to see the audience (shoppers) so surprised and appreciative to be part of the experience. That kind of act – sharing art/music in an effort to inspire and make people happy- among others, makes me teary.

  • To Sarah: I LOVE your cat’s name! Happy Bunny! I may steal it for a book . . .

  • Did you see The Sound of Music/Central Station, Antwerp (You Tube)? and then there’s lots more…

  • Joyce

    As one of many years of age, I’m finding that so very often my old friends are either ill or dying. I miss them but realize they have lived long and in most cases very wonderful lives so they deserve to leave this earth. My husband passed two years ago with Alzhimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases. I
    didn’t cry when he died but during the several years he was not with me and I was so very lonely and did my crying then. When he passed it was somewhat of a relief to know he would no longer suffer.

  • Pinky

    I read this yesterday, but ignored the links , and then this morning I went to the website to see the “opera story’ because of the comments.
    OMG I teared up at the end. Didn’t even THINK about the possibility until I saw the last seconds, when the lady had tears in her eyes.
    It was a beautiful thing to do.

    How do you FIND this stuff? Word of mouth, notices, newspaper? It must take hours to find a gem like that.

  • Janet

    Sometime in my 50′s, I turned into a marshmallow, too. Not sure why, but it takes so much less to make me laugh or cry. At some point, I suppose our feelings just rise to the top where they are standing by — and they don’t have far to go to come out.

    I loved the opera in the market. If you want to see something else that will put a smile on your face, check out the No Pants Subway Ride.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxI46nl9pkc&annotation_id=annotation_696195&feature=iv

  • Is that Penelope sitting on the right side of the desk? Has she been accepted by the others now or still living on your kitchen bench :)?

  • Mary

    Leanne, you have a good memory. I’ve wondering about Penelope, too.
    I get the feeling this picture is from some time ago.Is Penelope still on the kitchen counter?
    Do the other female cats forgive her? Is she happy?

  • Mary, Yes I often wonder about Penelope when reading the blog! She’s such a gorgeous looking cat.

  • Mo

    gee, thanks for the sunday morning blubberfest!! i used up at least 2 kleenex, lol
    i’ve seen the t-mobile dance a zillion times and it STILL makes me cry. the opera in the mercado was a new one for me, and about halfway through a tear rolled over and down my cheek. gaw! so of course i forward the links to family and friends so they too can share in the cryfest ;)

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