The only times I saw Granny openly cry was when my grandfather had brain surgery, when he died, and when her beloved German shepherd, Bo, died.
That was it.
The rest of the time, the old gal was as stoic as a tree trunk.
Her favorite emotion, of course, was anger, complete with her own brand of hellfire and brimstone.
Until one day, I found her sitting in her chair, looking out the window. When I spoke to her, I saw her wipe her face with her hands quickly before she spoke.
Was she crying?
“Are you OK?” I asked her.
Did someone pass? Was something wrong?
“I’m fine,” she said.
Even her voice had a catch in it that normally wasn’t there.
“No, you aren’t. What happened?”
She let out a deep sigh, wrought more from having to admit any kind of weakness than frustration.
“Sometimes, I just cry.”
“What do you mean you just cry? Is there something wrong with you?”
Granted, she complained all the time – and I mean all the ding dang, ever-loving time – so we knew every ache, pain and inconvenience that came her way. But was there something else going on that would make her cry?
She shook her head.
“Nothing’s wrong, I just sometimes cry to feel better.”
For someone in their early 20s, this was a foreign concept.
“So, you just cry?”
“Yeah,” she said simply. “I just cry and it helps.”
I’d later learn that certain days hit her harder than others – my grandparents’ anniversary, my grandfather’s birthday, some days that just made her miss him more.
The day I graduated college was another because she said it was one day he would have loved to see.
She would just sit in her chair, and look out the window and let her tears come.
She didn’t want to talk about it. She didn’t want to discuss it. She just wanted to have her moment and move on.
I would let her have her peace and not bother her until I knew she was ready for company.
I don’t even know if I ever told Mama or Bobby about her crying; maybe they knew and didn’t mention it. Even the toughest Steel Magnolia should have their moments.
I didn’t understand why she felt crying would make her feel better until later.
It was after I had experienced some of those things that life hands you – when you deal with loss, worry, fear, anxiety and dozens of other things that make you stronger than you want to be – and there’s times you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders that a cry can do you good.
Or, it’s when you finally got through a perilous time and the relief of it being over can be celebrated with a cry.
And then there are the times you are going about your day and just get hit with a flash of grief where you miss someone so badly you have no choice but to sit and cry.
If anything, now that I am older and a mother, I have learned Granny was right and those random cries can make you feel much better.
One day, Cole realized I had been crying. It was one of those out of the blue moments, when I had just been overwhelmed and when I had a moment, the frustration resulted in me having a brief cry.
“What’s wrong, sweet girl?” he asked, rushing to my side. “Are you OK? Are you upset with Daddy?”
I shook my head as I wiped my face with my sleeve. I never have a box of Kleenex near when these moments hit and now, can appreciate Granny keeping her tissue stuffed in her shirt, or toting a roll of toilet paper with her whenever she felt a good cry coming on.
“I’m fine, baby,” I said.
“No, you aren’t,” he said, concern creeping into his voice.
“Who did this to you? I will take them down!”
I gave him a tight squeeze. “I promise you, I am fine. I sometimes just cry to feel better.”
He gave me a puzzled look. “So no one hurt your feelings and nothing bad happened?”
If I allowed it, my feelings would be hurt on a second by second basis and bad stuff happens even more frequently.
Maybe that was why the crying helped – we were bombarded with those feelings and emotions and had to let it all out?
“No, no one hurt my feelings and nothing happened,” I said. “It’s good to just release some steam by having a good cry sometimes.”
He nodded slowly, not sure he understood. “Mama, not trying to sound disrespectful or anything…but is this a girl thing?”
To be honest, I wasn’t sure but maybe.
“So, you are OK, and I don’t need to hurt anyone?”
I squeezed him again. “I promise, I am fine. And there is nothing wrong.”
I didn’t understand when I was younger, so I can’t expect my son to get it. But sometimes, truly, all you need is a good cry.