I wrote this awhile back, but had reason to go look at it again. John Boehner may be long gone from public life, but I’m willing to bet on occasion he still cries like a little girl – as do I . . .
Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner has gotten a lot of grief for getting emotional, often to the point of crying in public. REAL men, especially politicians, aren’t supposed to do that sort of thing. It is apparently a sign of weakness, or so they say.
But I’m here today to defend the Speaker. You can disagree with him on his politics (at least 1/3 of the country does), maybe even with his perma-tan, but don’t take a shot at him for his public show of emotions, even if sometimes you’re not quite sure what the hell he’s crying about.
I understand where he is coming from, not that I’ve ever been elected Speaker of the House or been in the public arena. Boehner’s show of emotions is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of deep feeling that cuts right to the very heart of your being. It shows that there is something about the subject that he cares so much about, that there is no way he can keep those emotions from welling up and coming out.
I’m told that my grandfather was similarly predisposed. He died before my third birthday, not too much older than I am now, but I’m told that when it came to matters like family (such as saying goodbye to my 18 year old mother when she and I moved to Virginia with my Marine father stationed at Quantico), he would break down and cry like a little baby.
So I guess I come by the characteristic naturally, because recently I’ve found myself breaking down on occasion. And while it hasn’t been in public, or in front of my family, I know it is only a matter of time. My 16 year old son Jack tells me not to “be such a puss,” but something tells me one day (maybe 30 or so years from now) he’ll understand. As I now understand, when it comes to my grandfather and my mother.
A few weeks ago I was on the phone with my good friend Bruce Lefkowitz. Bruce and I were roommates together at Penn, and he (and my other good friends from high school and college) are the closest thing I have to brothers. Other than my own family, there is nothing I care more about in this world.
A week from Saturday, Bruce is being honored as an inductee into the Penn Sports Hall of Fame. A four year starter, two IVY League championships, and multiple records (some of which still stand), he is most deserving of the honor. Quite frankly, it should have come a long time ago.
A bunch of our mutual buddies (our “Band of Brothers”) will be there next week to celebrate with him. And when I called him a couple weeks ago, it was because I wanted to tell him personally, that I would not be able to attend. The whys aren’t really relevant to this post.
My emotions were in check at first, as I told him I’d really like to be there but couldn’t make it happen. He told me that he was humbled by the honor, and couldn’t believe that any of “the boys” would feel it necessary to attend. As I told him that it was a great honor, one that none of our other friends would ever be receiving, and that while it wasn’t “necessary,” sharing in that moment with him was special and defined the depth of our friendships for each other, that is when it all hit me. I could barely get the words out of my mouth (and can barely even type them as I retell the story now).
I don’t know if he noticed, because he didn’t say anything like “Dude, suck it up. Pull yourself together. You sound like flipping John Boehner for Pete’s sakes.”
Yesterday, I was talking to another really good friend of mine, Mike. He is going through a very tough time right now, one I wouldn’t wish on anyone. His mother was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease awhile back and the illness has now progressed to the point where she is rapidly deteriorating. I worked with a guy several years ago who succumbed to the same disease, so I’ve seen first hand what it can do to a person and how difficult it is for a family to watch a loved one go through that.
As if that wasn’t enough for any one person to deal with, he is also going through the end of his marriage of 14 years or so. This has probably been coming for sometime, and the two (his mother’s illness and the end of his marriage) are not related. Either one of those alone would be too much for many to bear. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to be going through both things simultaneously.
I pray for Mike’s well being. And I call him often, just to try to keep him connected to some of the people who care about him, to let him know that although it may feel like he’s going through all this on his own, he’s not. We’re here for him. At least as much as we can be. A lot of the times I just leave him messages. He’s understandably busy, since on top of everything he is dealing with, he still has a job to do and a life to live.
It’s been awhile since we’ve been able to connect on the phone, but we were able to get a few minutes together yesterday. Towards the end of the conversation he apologized for not calling me back when I had left him messages. And as I responded that I understood and didn’t care how often or quickly he called me back, that I just wanted him to know that I was always available if he needed someone to talk to, my John Boehner syndrome hit me again. When my brother hurts, I hurt. I hurt for him, and wish there was something I could to do ease his pain.
He’s a strong s-o-b and I know he’ll get through it. Life is always throwing curveballs at us. And while Mike couldn’t hit a fastball to save his life (sophomore year he claimed the reason he quit the baseball team at Penn was because his eyesight had weakened his hitting ability), something tells me he’ll handle this curveball just fine (or at least as well as anyone can deal with these type of challenges).
As with Bruce, Mike didn’t give a sign that he heard the breaks in my voice.
It must be that I’m getting older. I drop Jack off at school a couple time each week and as he walks away from the car and into the school, I’ll often watch him go the whole way. He usually doesn’t look back, but every once in awhile he will. In which case, he’ll make a shooing motion with his hand, like “C’Mon dad, get the heck out of here. You’re embarrassing me!”
It seems like only yesterday we were watching him get on the bus for his first day of kindergarten, then jumping into our car to get to the school before the bus (it had to make a few other stops first), watching him get off the bus and walk away from us into school for the first time.
How is it possible that now he is already a sophomore in high school? Where did that time go? And knowing how quickly it goes, I know that in the blink of an eye, we’ll be dropping him off at college. That will be a good time to buy stock in Kimberly Clark, the company that makes Kleenex, because the waterworks will really be flowing.
That’s two years from now, but it’s the start of a progression that will follow with our daughter Blair and then finally our youngest son, Alex.
That’s the cruelty in life. We are always saying goodbye. We say goodbye to our parents, family and high school friends when we leave the nest (for college or otherwise). We say goodbye to our college friends when that stage in our lives ends, and we go out into the working world. We say goodbye to our babies when they reach school age and start their own separation process. We say goodbye to our young adult children when it is time for them to leave the nest. We say goodbye to our parents and other loved ones when they pass on before us. And sometimes, we say goodbye to relationships, companies that we’ve put our heart and soul into, and others that we’ve connected with along the way.
If we’re lucky, we rarely have to say goodbye too soon. Although for the ones we care about, it is always TOO SOON.
So I for one will cut the Speaker a break. Because I too am an unapologetic cryer. Which to me just means I’M ALIVE.