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Crying Out Loud


Poor Dirtman. This time of year, the guy doesn’t stand a chance against the assault of the schmaltz.

Dirtman is a pretty tough husband. He works outdoors in rough terrain in all kinds of weather. He is the killer of all that is creepy and the cleaner of all that is disgusting. During any crisis, he gets busy behind the scenes, doing what needs to be done while everyone else is panicking and falling a part.

But show him the end of the movie Rudy and he is a puddle of treacle, sniffling away while I sit there, baffled, saying, “But they were going to win the game anyway…”

He is particularly vulnerable during the holiday season. You can’t turn on the television or go to the movies without something cloyingly sappy popping up before you.

Fortunately, Dirtman isn’t a spitting, boo-hoo-ing George Bush crier. He more of a Bill Clinton-type crier – watery eyes, sniffles – a sort of man-sob for the guy who is in touch with his emotions, but not so far gone that he can’t check out what kind of action he can get as a result.

While I’m not totally immune, I do seem to have a higher weeping threshold than my husband. I attribute this to a time when I was five years old and had to have a series of rabies shots into my stomach due to my mistaking a wild ground hog for one of those cute little Disney creatures that gathered affectionately around Snow White while she was abandoned in the woods. My mother couldn’t bear to watch me cry from the needle day after day for two weeks, so she promised me fabulous prizes if I could take the shots without shedding a tear.

Mercenary as I am, I forced myself not to cry, which turned out to be even more heart-wrenching to my mother. But a deal’s a deal and I garnered glitter paints, a giant 64 box of Crayolas, the first version of the Play-Doh Fun Factory, a Slinky (yeah, the “dangerous” metal kind), three Classic Comics comic books, a Chicklet dispenser, and a Dick Tracey puppet.

I received a pink Cinderella watch with complimentary statue for my final day of treatment because, in addition to the shot in the stomach, I also received one in the thigh given to me – I think – just to break me. I toughed it out but was unable to find a ground hog willing to take another chomp out of me. I wanted a Barbie doll and some clothes.

Stoicism is not Dirtman’s strong suit, though, and I know he gets pretty embarrassed that something as innocuous as a TV ad is all it takes to set him off. He’s blocked the Hallmark channel on the satellite feed so he can be sure that while channel surfing he won’t be faced with that little boy singing O Holy Night by himself until the brother he’s been waiting for to make it through the blizzard begins singing with him from the doorway. (If Dirtman is reading this paragraph, be assured he’s is now wiping his eyes. He can’t even talk about that commercial.)

When Heir 2 was six or seven he had a particular fondness for the movie Homeward Bound, the movie based on the book Incredible Journey. The ending is rather tense as, one by one, each pet returns home after being lost in the wilderness, the last and slowest being the wise old Golden Retriever, Shadow. The conversation from the living room always went something like this:

“Why are you crying, Daddy?”

“I’m just happy Shadow made it back.”

“But you’ve seen this before.”

“I know.”

“Shadow always makes it back. They never kill the dog in a kids’ movie.”

But nobody has to die to set Dirtman off. Bing Crosby just has to start singing “We’ll follow the old man wherever he wants to go, Long as he wants to go, Opposite to the Foe…” or wave to have the mill doors open up to reveal the snowfall outside; an estranged father and son just have to begin a game of catch on their Field of Dreams; or Homer Hickam just has to set off a rocket into the October Sky.

As our culture gets coarser and coarser, fewer television commercials set him off each year and it’s becoming safe for Dirtman to sit through an entire evening during the holidays without threat of melt down. And certain movies we know to confine to watching as a DVD in the privacy of our own living room; specifically, sports movies, movies about animals facing adversity and anything with Chris Cooper.

And me? I’m as dry-eyed as ever. Except when Lassie offers her paw at the end of her show.

I’m not made of stone.

Note: I was originally going to say that one actor whose movies we watch at home on DVD is Jake Gyllenhaal, but Dirtman reminded me that he was in Brokeback Mountain and he was very uncomfortable that people might think he got emotional over Gyllenhaal in that particular movie, which he felt, in an article about his “softer” side, made him even more uncomfortable. Guys from the Shenandoah Valley put a lot of thought into this sort of thing. I’m just learning the rules.

Share  Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 2:23 PM | Permalink

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