Maudlin

Here’s a snippet my father enjoyed telling: When he was around twelve years old his mother invited him to go to a movie with her. 

“It’s one of the greatest movies ever made,” she told him. In fact, she loved it so much that she had already been to see it twice. 

Thinking that a film that earned such high praise and repetitive watching was surely worth seeing, he agreed; and was dismayed when his mother spent the last half of the movie mopping at her tear-soaked face. At this point in the telling he would mop at his face and make sobbing sounds. 

“What was good about it if it made her cry?” he would ask. “And, knowing that it made her cry, why would she choose to see it again and again?”

He gave a snide chuckle, obviously thinking his mother was silly. Apparently he didn’t understand women at all. 

Spoiler alert: Barbara has died.

For those of you who don’t watch BBC’sCall the Midwife,Barbara was the daughter of a vicar, the wife of a vicar, and the encouraging force behind half the births in the East End in the sixties. She was spunky and funny and cute, a charming character who was so sincerely good that I had trouble liking her. 

And yet last night when it became clear that she was a very sick young woman—a diagnosis of meningitis coupled with septicemia—and her handsome husband and all her broken-hearted friends gathered around her hospital bed as she sank into death, I cried like my German grandmother—copiously and with gusto.

I cry through that damn show every week. 

The next day I talk to my friend, Jane, who also follows the show. 

“They killed off Barbara!” I tell her indignantly

“Yes. I think she wanted off the show.”

“Then why didn’t the BBC do what they usually do with these drawn out period dramas—send her to Australia and bring on a new character?”

I often cry over books and movies. I can still remember crying at the end of Bridges of Madison County. Why? It was known to be a soppy novel and I saw the ending coming from the first page. I should have been ready for it, yet it got to me. Those two people so in love, living their lives apart. How tragic.

Having called the book mawkish, I admit to being incapable of writing anything that would make someone cry. I simply couldn’t do it. 

Full disclosure—also, I cried at the end of Toy Story 3. But who wouldn’t? Andy gave Woody away and was going off to college. Just thinking about it makes me feel gooshy and sentimental. 

That I cry over stories, but seldomly over real-life tragedies makes me question my humanity. 

For instance, one of our yoga instructors has recently been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. So now she’s at home, dying. My friends whisper her names in hushed tones. 

At yoga, when it was announced that this woman would no longer be with us, women started crying. A box of tissues was passed around. 

Impatient, I looked at my watch. This carrying-on ate up twenty minutes of our class. 

How is it that I was prepared for it when no one else was? The woman was quite old. She’d been repeating herself, forgetting words and the names of the positions; and often, when she turned around, she was surprised to see us all standing there, awaiting her instruction. 

And here’s my pragmatic assessment: she will be missed. But I’m more worried about the husband she’ll be leaving behind. The two of them have been married for fifty-seven years. How will he cope? He won’t know how to navigate without her by his side. 

Now that’s something to cry about. 

 Because I needed a picture to put here. 

Because I needed a picture to put here.