I was brought to tears last Sunday. The source of these twin salty flows was immense relief combined with shoulder-dropping humility. 

Those that know me best know that I can be overly sentimental and rendered easily to tears. But how can that be?  I’m a guy. I’m not supposed to cry.  At least that is the false narrative I grew up with. 

I followed the male script. I played football and joined Boy Scouts where we were drilled with elementary military ideals of discipline and rank. My friends and I played “army” and at times flung projectiles at each other in the form of acorns, packed snowballs and yes, even BB gun ammo. I donned boxing gloves and danced nervously in the arena of jabs, hooks and mostly flailing. And like Jimmy Carter, who admitted in a famous interview in 1976 that he had lusted after other women in his heart, I have done the same.  

I’ve shot deer, filleted my share of walleyes, trapped and skinned muskrats, and portaged canoes where no portage trail existed. I fathered two lovely daughters. I have done the “typical guy things.”

All through my boyhood and teen years, a constant message to those of us born with that Y chromosome was to “suck it up.” And even today more than sixty years later the culture continues to champion male aggression. 

For a second time, my youngest daughter, Maren and bonus son, Ben, have delivered news of a birth that melted me and renewed the flow of tears. 

The first time was nearly 4 years ago when they told us that they were expecting their first child and my first grandchild. 

Now we were on the brink of Eleanor becoming a big sister. Hours, including a night, passed with waiting. We waited with a lineup of favorite stuffed toys, Minnie Mouse, a giraffe, a panda, a hippo and monkey made from socks, all peering out the window. 

And suddenly the car pulled up. Eleanor hesitated at the window staring at her parents and baby brother. We rushed to the door, hurried out and opened our arms and exposed our hearts. Welcome Thomas Blake!! 

I cried like a baby when told his name. To have a grandchild christened with my own name is perhaps the most touching and honoring act I could hope to experience. 

Three days later, my 88-year old stepdad lost his month-long battle with Covid. And once more I cried.  Suddenly the newness of birth was clouded with death. In the hours following Orv’s passing, I pulled up memories of shared moments, whether it was travel, our usual Norwegian greeting to each other, and shared love of laughs, pickled herring and cookies.  He was a generous man who keenly loved his family.  Known as “Doc” by his great grandkids, he easily sculpted smiles on their faces. 

And now a week into Thomas’s life on the “outside,” I am cradling him quietly telling him how I can’t wait to share a campfire that Eleanor and he built. We will watch spires of sparks climb into the night sky to mingle with oh so many stars!  I will pull up stories galore about when I was a little boy, and there will be tales of the beloved “Doc.” 

I suspect there might even be quiet moments where the fire hypnotizes us into a silent surrender to wonder.  And along the way, I will happily show them, the blessed vulnerability of grown man crying.  

Filed under: Uncategorized