2002.10.23 Laugh away the tears

Written by David Green.

Here come those tears again

Just when I was getting over you

Just when I was going to make it through

Another night without missing you

Thinking I might just be strong enough after all

When I hear your footsteps echoing in the hall

— “Here come those tears again”

Jackson Browne & Nancy Farnsworth


By COLLEEN LEDDY

I am fairly certain Jackson Browne wasn’t thinking of 44-year-old women mourning the loss of their mothers when he co-wrote that song back in 1976. And I sure wasn’t thinking about the possibility of life without my mother back when I was buying his albums as a college student. But lately, those title lyrics run through my brain whenever I start missing my mom, who died a year and a half ago.

Yes, time to brace yourself, here comes another one of those columns that threatens to explore the anguish of grief, plumb the depths of distress, wade in the murky waters of woe. Oh, just ignore me, it’s those tears again. I feel as if I’m having an on-again-off-again relationship with grief. It comes to visit and I keep trying to shoo it out the door.

“Here’s your hat. What’s your hurry?”

But it won’t be urged along like that. It settles in and puts its feet upon my couch, prepared to spend the night if it has to, until it shakes the tears out of me.

I try to avoid the critter, especially when it rears its head through my favorite recreational activity: reading. Certain articles in magazines, certain books: I just look at the title and think, no, not for me, I couldn’t handle that right now. They fall into the don’t-go-there category of reading material selection.

So, I don’t know what the heck possessed me to bring home a book like Michael Raleigh’s, In the Castle of the Flynns, in which a seven-year-old boy becomes orphaned when his parents die in a car accident. Both parents’ families vow to bring him up and share in the care of him.

I’d read a review of it in a catalog and thought it might be something to buy for the library, but I interloaned it first. I enjoy stories about the Irish and this one has a different twist, set in Chicago. Orphan that I am, I just wasn’t linking myself to that state of affairs. I’m a big girl now, right? But when I read the following line from Castle of the Flynns, I was a child all over again—a motherless child, at that, and the tears just kept on coming.

“...I became convinced that I lived an unprotected life, that I had lost a sort of mystical shield afforded to each child at the outset of life, and that the love of these grandparents, uncles, and aunts was a poor substitute for the genuine article.”

That’s exactly how life without my mother seems sometimes—the mystical shield of love and compassion gone, and nobody capable of enveloping me in that motherly armor.

But daily life goes on. It astounds me, the capacity of the human heart to mourn deeply but laugh loudly, to feel sadness but still smile, to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous children....

I’m reading an article that explains, with inside information and eye-opening insight, the workings of George W. Bush and the situation with Iraq. It makes so much sense I want to share it with my children.

“Man, this article is so amazing. It explains everything about how the world works,” I say.

“Can I have the comics?” says 13-year-old Maddy.

“Let me read this to you,” I say.

“We don’t have time for this. We’re on a tight schedule,” says 16-year-old Rosie.

“I have to go now,” says Rosie’s friend Sarah.

My nights can be filled with sadness and sorrow, but still, even when my children reject my efforts, I can laugh.

And I’m still chuckling when I find stray notes jotted down when we’re packing for a trip to New York. Maddy is explaining to a friend how to get more clothes into a suitcase.

“If you roll them, they’ll be smaller,” she says.

And her dad, the consummate light traveler adds, “If you burn them, they’ll be smaller yet.”

But of course, there’s still the “but...”

Humor is one of the greatest gifts of the universe, but it’s not always a match for one of life’s cruelest jokes, that we all have to die. And I know it won’t be long before I’ll be singing the Jackson Browne blues.

Here come those tears again…

    – Oct. 23, 2002 
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