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

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 sooo not like me.