Mama dear, my brothers don’t cry, neither do my uncles and fathers… and I’m not sure I know why…
I remember a shamefully beautiful, sunny day that also happened to be the day we lost a lady we loved. As you know, funerals in our home are big and sad affairs that go on for days. He was present from the beginning; organizing the family meeting, drafting the budget, and even lifting heavy material to erect temporary structures. I noticed him because he paused next to my hiding place under the shade, stretched his painful back and reached into his pocket for a handkerchief. He then proceeded to wipe hid sweaty brow, then quickly removed his dark sunglasses and wiped the tears from his eyes. He did this fast and discreetly before anyone could notice him crying. I did.
My own sniffing and silent sobs were interrupted by the few seconds that I saw this man allowing himself to wipe away hidden tears. I gazed at him as he burst around the place making sure everything was handled. This hidden sorrow that reminded me of my own brothers paused my mourning.
This man could have been like my brothers whose tears I have forgotten the sight of. They cried when they were young children, I recall them crying in pain after a fall. Sometimes, they cried in anger and frustration. Other times they cried when hungry or scared. They even cried when I poured cold water on their heads when washing them. And sometimes they cried for no good reason to manipulate or just be fussy. Little boys just cry.
There’s an invisible line that one crosses from one stage of life to another, I think. We woke up one day and these boys had crossed a line towards, not adults, but children too old to cry. I’m not sure when exactly that is, but one day the child would drop his favorite snack and cry, then a nearby figure would admonish;
“Stop crying like a baby! You are a big boy now!”
This same sentence will alter until it one day becomes;
“Be a man!”
And just like that, that small boy gradually transfigures into a man whose tears are warned to not fall and label him weak and out of control. This small boy turns into a man who holds his tears until his eyes burn. This man who had just lost the woman who raised him as her own was now single-handedly organizing her funeral. He will work tirelessly and we will all praise him. We will think of what a great, strong man we have in the family. We will even feel quite thankful for his manly presence and authority. But this man hides his sorrows, just like my brothers.
And this brings me back to that shamefully beautiful day where the man planned and planned. And with everything fixed, he took himself to the pub and sat with his friends with a big bottle. They talked, laughed and made loud jokes about everything and nothing. They downed the good liquor until it was early the next morning, then they drunk a little more. His friends did not give him lingering hugs, or arm squeezes. His friends didn’t ask how he was feeling and if he wanted to talk about it. They didn’t dare to ask if he wanted to talk about the loss of someone so dear to him. His friends just commented on the football scores and joked about their growing bellies and shrinking hairlines. They were handling everything like MEN.
The man then went home with only enough time to shower and change into a somber black suit for the burial. The burial where he and his brothers will carry their beloved to her final resting place. I find it ironic that they will carry the weight of their lost loved one above the weight of all the tears they were taught to hold in. The man will go through the funeral with red eyes that his friends and family will attribute to the previous night of heavy MANLY drinking. And a dripping sweat that they’ll call a hangover. Mama dear, that is the same sweat the man will use as an excuse to wipe away his tears with a handkerchief before fixing his dark glasses on as the last song is sung for his beloved.
Oh, mama! My brothers don’t cry, neither do my uncles and fathers… do you have any idea why?