Sunday, August 01, 2010

Hardwired for Tears

For most of my life I frustrated my mother to no end. I tried to be a good kid. I was reasonably smart, generally compliant and good natured. I did what I was told with a minimum of complaining and wasn't a fussy, picky child. The thing I could not do that she so desperately needed was to be outwardly demonstrative and emotional. I just didn't come naturally to me.

She took to calling me a cold fish, mostly out of frustration I suppose.

She was right I guess. Perhaps she could have found a better way to express herself about it. . . but time heals most things.

It wasn't that I didn't deeply feel things, it was that I'm much more an intellectual person than I am an emotional one.

You most likely will never find me jumping up and down for joy, even if Ed McMahon comes knocking with that big check. I'm not someone who dances and screams at arena events. Ali kindly gives me a hard time because I don't dance. Heck, it would be a rare thing to find me even raising my hands in worship at a church service. Those physical responses to joy are just not my default outlet.

My instinctive, hardwired response is tears. I can cry in joy or in pain. In laughter and in sorrow. In surprise and in love. You name it, and I can cry over it. And it happened last week, standing on the steps of Bluffton's Town Hall.

One of the first "real" lesbian couples that I ever met were Jo and Lois. I was a freshly minted college graduate and scared to death that people would figure out I was gay. I couldn't figure out what kind of life I was going to have and was feeling weighed down by all the religious baggage I had picked up from the Baptist church.

Jo and Lois were old already. One was a retired teacher and the other was retired from the local bank. I found it almost unfathomable that they had been together nearly 50 years. And that they had spent all of it in this small town and they seemed to be so normal.

I thought that perhaps there was hope after all.

As I got to know them better I was absolutely entranced by their relationship with each other. Jo was outgoing and boisterous. Lois was quiet and smart. Lois was quite a bit older than Jo and I've never forgotten the story of their first meeting.

It was the 1950's and Lois was a teller at the local bank. Jo blew into town, all steam and noise and went to the bank to open an account. For some reason the bank President came out into the lobby to meet Jo and after a few moments quietly leaned in and said, "I think there might be a teller over here who would make you feel more comfortable," and walked her to Lois' window. The rest, as they say, is history. They lived quiet, mainstream lives in a small town with many friends and companions.

The heart of Bluffton is it's people. And the visual heart of Bluffton is the clock tower on the Town Hall. The tower image is the masthead for the local newspaper and the tower is the highest point in town. You can see it from just about anywhere on Main Street. Over the last two years the town hall has undergone a beautiful renovation and renewal. It was well deserved.

So, last week, when I walked up to the new entrance to Town Hall and looked to the left of the doors and saw this my heart skipped a beat.

And then the tears began to flow.

I cried because of the beauty of the act. Because of the courage to dare to be seen. Because of the loss of my friend. Because of the joy of looking up at the clock and seeing the sky. Because of the loneliness I know Jo feels. Because of the laughter they shared. And mostly, because of the testimony of their lives.

And the tears felt perfectly honest, natural and good. Way to go, Jo.


Kudos 2 U said...

Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

Marie said...

What a hopeful story! (And you tell it so well!) I used to imagine what it might be like to just live, just be, in a town like that. You know, where no one talks about my sexuality and it's just sort of a given.