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Wednesday, 05 February 2014

When Was the Last Time You Wept?

Regular readers will know that I have little tolerance for nostalgia or regret which, in our time, so often provoke a simplistic sentimentality.

That does not mean at all, however, that I don't give value to our memories. As forms of dementia so sadly prove, we are not who we are without them.

Nor does it mean that I do not miss some things and, certainly, people from my past. Hugely. What gets me through is that I am nothing if not practical and as a result, I have always been good at acceptance of what I cannot change.

In the early years of my eighth decade now, I am as eager and curious about life and the future as I have ever been so it is a great advantage that I have no interest in nostalgia and regret because they would only be hindrances to getting on with living.

Keep that in mind as you read on.

A couple of days ago, Kathleen Noble who blogs at The Dassler Diaries sent me a YouTube video of Billy Joel's New York State of Mind. She thought the circumstances of the video – a young student accompanying the composer singing his own song – might make it a nice item for the Saturday Interesting Stuff post and she wasn't wrong.

Take a look. (It's hard to hear but the kid's answer when Joel asks him what key he plays in that gets such a response from the audience is, "Any key you want.")

As soon as the young man got into the song's main theme, tears started rolling down my cheeks. I wept – loudly and copiously - through the entire video and continued for so long after it finished that my chest was heaving and my eyes swelled up.

Anyone who has read TGB for any length of time, knows that I lived in Manhattan for 40 years and did not leave because I chose to.

I wasn't born there but from the moment I arrived when, well into my 20s, I stepped onto the pavement in midtown, I knew I was home for the first time, that I belonged there.

And that has never changed.

However, it does not mean I haven't made a home here in Oregon near Portland. I have some friends now, I'm active in civic matters in my town, I do some volunteering and I am working diligently with a group to create a Village here (I'll be telling you about that sometime soon).

After three-and-a-half years, I am putting down some roots. I feel invested in my community and I want to help make good things happen here. But it isn't my “real” home.

I believe that some people feel something ineffable about certain physical places.

For many, it is where they were born or grew up. No matter where they wander in life, they are always drawn back whether they return or not.

Others, like me, had to discover the place – sometimes accidentally - that feels like home, the place where their fit with the environment is just right.

New York City is never far from my mind. I check in several times a week with local news there, regularly speak on the phone and email with friends who live there. I even have my coffee blend shipped in from a long-time, favorite shop in Greenwich Village.

With all that, my practical nature has kept me from wallowing in nostalgia for what I cannot have and helped me to become committed to my new community; how else could I get on with life?

But now and then something sends me into a paroxysm of love and grief for my “real” home - like that overly sentimental song Kathleen Noble sent.

What's your answer to the question in the headline?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joyce Benedict: Pete Seeger – Thanks For the Memories


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

I may not be answering your question, but I do know exactly what you mean about a sense of place. I grew up in New England, moved to Denver and then lived for 34 years in New Orleans where I built a family and work life, but never felt I truly belonged. For the past 8 years I have lived in Austin, TX and this is where I truly feel I belong There is something about the landscape, sky, and energy of this town that is totally ME. It's an extremely satisfying feeling, indeed.

Ronni, this is one of my favorite posts.

Thank you for putting the words down in such a heartfelt way.

Our travels have taken us to all corners of the world. We never get tired of exploring other cities.

But here's the thing:

No matter how far we roam or what breathtaking sights we have seen,

The moment our return flight plane begins descending over Montreal, or we cross a bridge and stare full blast at our Montreal skyline, the tears flow.

Montreal is and always will be home, but if we ever had tons of play money, we would also buy a loft in NYC.

Montreal and NYC have a lot in common.

I taught many an expat New Yorker and enjoyed their sense of humor. Our school board hired expat N Yorkers as principals.

They did well.

Ronni, something tells me you will return to your city.

Never say never.

There is no finish line.

After my stroke, my eyes leak at the drop of a hat. Movies, books, objects in memory, friends, all these trigger totally over the top responses.

My kids laugh at me because I return to my hometown newspaper to read the obituaries. The other day I found the obit of a former classmate from elementary school. He was not a friend, nor an enemy. I don't think I ever spoke to him. He was just a blonde kid who lived on one of the "poorest" streets in our poor NY neighborhood. In his obit, I learned he lived in Florida, raised four kids who gave him grandchildren, got a job after college, and loved pursuing his hobbies of Yankee baseball, playing cards and collecting stamps and coins. I wept when I realized he might have been fun to have as a friend in elementary school.I wondered about the whereabouts of the other people I never really got to know.

I can't remember the last time I wept. I do cry unashamedly at funerals sometimes -- not because I think any of us should live forever, but grief for a loved one gone on turns on the taps. But I wonder whether otherwise I've excessively hardened myself in order to try to look at the world as it is.

Heck, I don't even live in New York City (only visited once), but Billy Joel can make anyone feel as if they did...or should.

I tend to get tears in my eyes over many things. I am a bit of an emotional person. I do not think feeling teary is bad. I do not usually bawl, though.

Nor am I quick to tear up, yet when the dawn breathtakingly begins while on my morning 'runs' the feeling of joy and connectedness will be overwhelming. The last time of deep weeping was when realizing that a true intimacy and love with another was no longer going to be, though I have made that with myself.

I was born and raised in NYC but I got weepy just thinking of you sobbing with homesickness. We want you to come back, too.
What usually makes me cry? Whenever I see or hear of people being kind and generous to one another, giving from the heart, going that extra step. It gives me such hope.

I haven't had a really good bawl for years, but a little cry now and then when I listen to particular pieces of music.

The last time? Five minutes ago, tears sprung to my eyes when I read your post...I don't know why- something to do with your deep happiness in NY and your longing for the place.

I think the last time I cried it surprised me because I didn't know I was going to weep. I had broken my hip and was in rehab just before Christmas. A volunteer played the piano for a sing-along of Christmas music. I was happily warbling away and knew all of the words to the music. She played "I'll Be Home For Christmas" I got the first three words out and burst into tears. It surprised me and I couldn't stop crying during the entire piece.

Like janinsanfran, I may have hardened myself by being pragmatic and I do not cry easily or often, so those unbidden tears were most unusual. I suppose I could chalk them up to being weak and that probably contributed to any lack of self control I have, but I was suddenly very homesick for past Christmases.

Oh, I am hopeless, Ronni. I always thought I'd get over my easy tears when I got older, and in some ways I have. I don't cry over insults or slight; I don't cry over physical pain;I don't cry over disappointments, but I cry over music that moves me (most of what I listen to--folk and classical--)and I cry over kitties and puppies and babies in commercials, as does my daughter while her older sister sits and laughs at us.

Four of my biggest public cry moments

The first came while watching the Emma Horton character in Terms of Endearment die. My wife and I watched it right after it came out in 1983.

The next event was when I visited the miniature Vietnam Veterans Wall that came to our part of North Texas. As I rubbed my fingers over the name of an individual that I knew as a kid I wept like a baby, even though I didn’t particularly like him. It was the shared experience of Vietnam that drew this kind of emotion out of me. I had made it home, he and thousands like him never did.

The third time was at my father’s funeral. There was no real strong bond between me and my dad but it was the first loss of a member from our nuclear family. When mom died about 17 years later I was sad but didn’t cry because I felt she had lived a more fuller life and was now at peace.

And the last whaler I can recall was the end scene of Saving Private Ryan where Harrison Young played the older Ryan and was weeping in front of the grave of Captain Miller while asking his wife, ”Have I been a good man?”

I have teared up several other times during my life but not just outright bawled like these four.

I had a surprise cry last year during an autobiography writing class. I had written about an experience many years ago, and when I read it in class, I burst out in tears. The funny thing is that I now don't even remember what I wrote unless I look it up.

I'll always be a New Yorker, even though I left almost 40 years ago, and have lived in more places than I can remember.

I think many of us build up tears that we don't ever shed from all the disappointments, the heartaches, the losses that we endure throughout life. Then there is a some trigger; the dam breaks, and we sob for the plight of the human condition. At least I do.

I understand. I only spent a short time there but I fell in love with it.

I get teary when I cross the bridge across the Maumee River as I grew up in Toledo. For me it will always be home.

I wish so much that you could go back to live in your beloved NYC. There is no location I feel that way about. However, I do like to live where there are plenty of deciduous trees.

I haven't had a big cry in years. Maybe I've dried up.

Many a day while playing the piano certain tunes bring out the tears ....songs like My Yiddishe Momma and Oh My papa are killers for me - so I don't play them too often andthen other tunes that evokes my memory of people and places I have met in my life - plus I am a cryer anyway - very sensitive to how I was treated in life and the sad part Memory from Cats....describes me well.

Just beautiful, I am lucky enough to have been born and stayed in NYC..loved all the weepers comments, couple even moved me to tears again...that is what growing up, growing old is good for..all the grownups who ever told us a good cry is healthy, cathartic, etc were absolutely right..good for allergies too..I will always associAte Billy Joel with 911 and that song too..I think that event bonded our country like the WWs did for our elders..incredible comments as usual,,

Like Sheila, "Memories" from "Cats" gets me, too--so I don't listen to it. As far as place is concerned, I have few pleasant memories of where I grew up. Where I live now with my husband of 38 years (whom I met here) is my home.

Well, that was one way to get me to update my blog!!!

Used to cry easily but not so much the last few years. However after I cried buckets after Sandy Hook, and that kind of news still makes me weep.

I have always cried easily in response to beauty - which might be a sight or sound or relationship. A friend called it the gift of tears.

Although I lived in and loved Chicago and D.C., New Orleans, where I spent my 20's is the home of my heart and spirit. How I would like to live and die there...

I'm extremely emotional. It takes very little to move me to tears and it can happen quickly and unexpectedly. My sister says she envies me because she can rarely cry, even when it's expected. She says she'll hire me out as her "professional crier." It's a curse to have to struggle for composure at the most unexpected times. My son learned years ago to ignore it (so as not to embarrass me) and just hand me the tissues. Movies (sad or happy), music, beauty, the mountains, memories, photos ... the list is endless. Being retired and living alone has helped; now I'm less likely to embarrass myself in front of others.

Ronni,

My Dad felt exactly as you do about his longing to be where his heart was.

He loved Pennsylvania and was never content when circumstances took him to live in New Jersey.

If you get a chance, you can read about him in my story on your Elder Storytelling Place.
Look for "Taking Dad Home To Pennsylvania."

You will find a kindred spirit in him....

I watched "The Butler" last night and bawled my eyes out at the civil rights protest/violence scenes. And in fear at any part I might have played in that senseless, soul-stunting hatred, as a young white girl living south of the Mason Dixon line. Why oh why do the rich white males still get to write the rules about whom we shall hate; blacks, women, gays (god forbid some combination thereof, in their eyes)Something to still cry over. Wonderful movie, if you are looking for something to view tonight...

Ronni,

For further waterworks I strongly suggest Dave Frishberg's "Do You Miss New York?" - here's a version on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r01WqYc96Xo

The main reason why most old time native New Yorker's cry when they have to leave is probably because they had to give up their rent controlled apartment,the same one that the guy living next to you is paying $2500 a month for, while your rent was only $750. I live in Yonkers now and on a clear day I can see my old apartment a few miles south in the Emerald City.

I live in Paris which is a great city but I always miss NYC my home town.What makes the city is the attitude of the New Yorkers.They do have a wonderful tough street wise side and a great sense of humor.Paris has a city code Bonjour and Merci when buying a croissant but New Yorkers don't have to deal with any of that.I love New York.

The last time I wept was yesterday when I took a look at the Coke commercial from last Sunday's Superbowl. I have no love of football, and not much for Coke, but the spirit that imbued that video moved me so. Then I read about the right-wing idiots who are so "disturbed" by all the foreigners singing "America the Beautiful" in other languages, and my tears became laughter.

The day before that I watched the American Masters documentary about our late, loved Pete Seeger. I wept all through that, too, over the spirit that we've lost during the last few decades.

My tears have veered to bitterness lately. Maybe I need to listen to "La Boheme" more often.

Today.

I wish the reason was not SO Personal so I could share but let' just say my floodgates opened with a torrent of tears and moaning about something I cannot change and some difficult changes in my life that are on the near horizon which is not easy for me at 84 years of age but I will survive.

The last time I really cried was when we had to put our beloved Golden "Casey" down in September. Still miss her. Cry every time I hear the song "Dance With My Father Again". Lots of things make me tear up. It's just who I am.

I think you're right about the power of place. It's like there are some outer landscapes that just chime with our inner landscape. Although my writing is about Texas, I also think longing about New York City. And remember.


As a child growing up in New York City, I watched images on TV that were forever etched in my young soul — police and their dogs attacking small children. Mobs of men, women, and children waged obscene deadly battles in Little Rock, Arkansas, in resistance to the 1954 Supreme Court decision for integration. Mercifully, most of that, one of the ugliest chapters in America's history is behind us. Shades of that chapter came back for me recently in Tel Aviv, where I witnessed the peaceful nonviolent march of Israel's African asylum-seeking community of 50-60 thousand carrying signs — "Freedom" and "We are refugees" and from Leonard Cohen's anthem, ". . . every heart to love will come but like a refugee." (The marchers were heading to the US and several other foreign embassies and UN refugee offices asking that they press the local government to grant refugee status to eligible individuals and repeal the new amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law by releasing detainees in a detention center and holding facility.) Most of my fellow bystanders were hecklers, and many drivers ignored the marchers at the crosswalks. I felt dry heaves growing and then nausea and tears, and wept, uncontrollably. Racism, xenophobia never end; daily, we need to notice and help turn the tide, again and again.

The last time I wept was last Sat. Feb. 1 when I found a place card for a past Passover seder with my dear friend's name "Sandy" on it. Sandy Kugelman, age 51, died of breast cancer Dec. 6, 2013, just 2 months ago today. So many people miss her!I was born in NYC and grew up on Long Island just up the street from Billy Joel's mother. I met him once in the grocery store. He is very talented but without going into details, I must say that he was not someone with whom I was impressed personally. I do not miss NY at all. (Except for food occasionally). Austin has become our home for the lst 30years and we love it! (Notice I left out "Texas!") Y'all come see us! Then leave because it is becoming too busy here.

As a child I was easily moved to tears - not by pain or discomfort, but by events or circumstances. As I grew up that faded and I became what I thought of then as 'better controlled'. I've noticed now though (I'm 67) that if something moves me the tears come and I don't care. I used to thing it was an old man's sentimentality but I think it is in fact a recognition that an emotional response is not a bad thing - it is just part and parcel of being human.

So what triggers the tears? Memories of family usually, but regret for lost opportunities, manipulative movies or well loved passages from books can all do it - like this poem.

Remembering Golden Bells

Ruined and ill—a man of two score;
Pretty and guileless—a girl of three.
Not a boy—but still better than nothing:
To soothe one’s feeling—from time to time a kiss!
There came a day—they suddenly took her from me;
Her soul’s shadow wandered I know not where.
And when I remember how just at the time she died
She lisped strange sounds, beginning to learn to talk,
Then I know that the ties of flesh and blood
Only bind us to a load of grief and sorrow.

At last, by thinking of the time before she was born,
By thought and reason I drove the pain away.
Since my heart forgot her, many days have passed
And three times winter has changed to spring.

This morning, for a little, the old grief came back,
Because, in the road, I met her foster-nurse.

Po Chu-I

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