In the last few weeks I have become aware of two things: first, an increasing tendency for me to perform a typo of this kind, attaching th eletter 'e' to a word immediately following th eword 'the' (and it's aggravating me in a disproportionate way), and second: my propensity to cry seems to have increased lately. Now before you go off on a flight of fancy and imagine a pot-bellied, balding ex policeman standing in the kitchen bawling his eyes out, I don't mean exactly that kind of crying. I don't either mean that, at various times in my day, I need to pause and take myself off to have a good weep. No, no, no. Were either of those the case, I would be worrying about it rather than blogging about it.
Why am I crying, lately?
I am referring to my ability to access my emotions when faced with appropriate stimuli. For example, this morning, via facebook, I received and read the following story:
Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, 'Do you think they'll let me play?' I knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a father I also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.
I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, 'We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning..'
Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt.. I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart. The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three.
In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again.
Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.
At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game?
Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.
However, as Shay stepped up to the Plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact.
The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed.
The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay.
As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.
The game would now be over.
The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman.
Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.
Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of reach of all team mates.
Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, 'Shay, run to first!
Run to first!'
Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base.
He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.
Everyone yelled, 'Run to second, run to second!'
Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base.
By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball . The smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team.
He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head.
Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.
All were screaming, 'Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay'
Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, 'Run to third!
Shay, run to third!'
As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, 'Shay, run home! Run home!'
Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team
'That day', said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, 'the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world'.
Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!
Now, I read this story - and I don't really care whether it's true or not - and the tears filled my eyes and ran down my face. I have no shame admitting it, nor do I feel bad about telling you that for the last few days I have found at least one story on the news or online which has moved me quietly to tears. I happen to think that emotions are psychologically healthy when expressed, and I'm actually pleased about this recent development. I am, however, mildly surprised, which is why I'm sharing it.
The intriguing part of this is that right now I am very happy. I am as relaxed and happy right now as I can remember being. I would prefer to have my kids with me all of the time instead of 50% of the time, but I'm a re-married divorced person and that goes with the territory. I would prefer to be financially independent and secure so that I never had to work again, but I'm OK with the understanding that such ideas are not very realistic (although I like to dream). However, I am loved. That is - perhaps surprisingly for you, I don't know - a momentous thing for me to be able to tell you.
I tend to love unconditionally (is there any other way?) and in a kind of full-throttle way. If I'm being dispassionately clinical about this (and I guess that I am), there is almost a desperation about the way I have loved people in my life. I think I know why, but that is something I shall keep to myself for a while yet, something I share with only one other person. A consequence of the way I love has been that I have rarely felt loved in return in quite the same way.
Unfortunately for those who have loved me (and those who still do), I've always found it difficult to accept that I am loved. I've always believed people when they have said it, I have never thought that they have been dishonest; the problem was always with feeling deserving of such love. Arguments attempting to break down this wall of security and self-protection have never managed to scale the ramparts successfully, nor to effectively undermine its foundations.
Recently, however, something has changed. I know that I am loved. I know, and can accept the love that has been coming my way for a long time now - from my children, my wife, my relatives (not all of whom love me, by the way) and my friends. Somehow, the wall has cracked and crumbled; rifts have appeared and my defences have been breached. Writing about it now makes my eyes fill with tears yet again; the truth of it is overpowering.
I choose to believe that some kind wisdom is starting to creep into my everyday experiences of life; that with the advancing years is coming the maturity to smell those damned roses that have been on the other side of the glass for so very long. I welcome this, and I am most grateful to be experiencing it.
Getting older, being in 'the age of spreading middle' can be wonderful sometimes...I think I have answered my own question about why I can cry.