At some point in my 68th year I started crying. It's been a year since then and I'm still blubbering. I chock it up to age and nostalgia.
Age and nostalgia combined can be a powerful force. It can bring you to tears in an instant, or put a huge smile on your face for days. Even the smiles, however, are soaked in tears lately.
Many things will set the waterworks in motion. A sappy commercial is as powerful as an old photo. When watching the Budweiser Clydesdales return an adorable puppy to its owner elicits the same reaction as viewing the innocence you see in yourself in your First Holy Communion photo or a snapshot of your best friend, now long deceased, you know you have a problem. When the last minute Patriots Super Bowl win sets off your waterworks as quickly as a news broadcast of a terrible tragedy, you need to wonder.
The juxtaposition of happy and sad constantly producing the same spurts of saline has me concerned.
It borders on public safety when a favorite song suddenly surrounds you from the car radio and you remember dancing to it with your first "true" love and your eyes fill up so much that you could use, not only the wipers, but the windshield fluid as well to cleanse the flow. Compare that to the same gushing of tears that result after hearing of a friend's debilitating illness or the loss of a loved one. I would expect these experiences would bring forth different responses. It would seem that the common denominator, tears, brought on by overwhelming emotion and exacerbated by the nostalgia that aging brings is quite a compelling combination.
Little kids are the worst tear-producing offenders. My new best friend and 5 year-old great nephew, Aidan, is constantly hugging me and telling me he loves me. This isn't just when I give him a special treat. He's just a very loving kid who very often is given to spontaneous outbursts of affection. I become a puddle. He asks why I'm crying and I try not to scar him into never expressing love for fear of sending the recipient of his affection into depression. I tell him that I'm old and that old people often cry when they're happy. He doesn't understand and keeps telling me he loves me and not to be sad. Of course, this only intensifies the flood.
Memories are also culprits. Good memories and awful ones are equally egregious. A wonderful walk down memory lane with a dear friend recalling a time that meant so much to both of you becomes doubly wonderful when viewed through the lens of a long life. Equally, a traumatic memory again shared with a loved one reprints on both souls a second scar. Both experiences bring forth tears, but tears of two very different calibers. I don't know why, but I'm grateful for both varieties. They each produce a catharsis that seems to cleanse and comfort.
Reconnecting with family and old friends seems to bring out the worst tsunami of the eyes. I recently spent a week with my sister and brother and their families. Forget it. Everything from a simple hug to late night reminiscences to accepting the adulthood of my niece and nephews had me tearing up.
All this makes me cautious for an upcoming trip to see a group of very dear, longtime friends. Will I need tons of tissues and bottles of red-eye reducer or will I be able to simply bask in the wonderful waters of sentimentality and, when the welling up organically begins, simply let it happen as a consequence of love, beautiful memories and the warmth of friendship? I shall let you know, if I can do so without crying.
By Nancy Joyce