Bring on the tears

A friend put on a dumb-looking hat. I mean, really dumb looking. I would like to report that I had the Christian response, the Catholic response.

I didn’t.

“When you were younger, you wouldn’t have been caught dead in a hat like that,” I snickered.

“When I was younger I had cold ears a lot,” he answered. The wisdom of the ages and the aged.

Besides wearing any hat as long as it works, I’ve discovered other ways that I am getting older:

My basketball skills are gone, and the backhand in tennis is shot.

I can catch a cold but I couldn’t go back on a fly ball and catch it if my life depended on it.

And I’m paying back decades of bad habits. Pizza will have a lot more than a pound of flesh.

There are other things as well. I don’t know if they necessarily come with age, but they coincide with it in my case. And they are not all bad. Patience, for example. I’m not great at it, but I’m so much better than I was not that long ago. I don’t inflict as much worry on myself. Also, I don’t have to shave as much.

Or I just don’t shave as much — period.

Here’s another age-thing that started a few years back. I have this embarrassing tendency to tears. Not sniffling tears, but rather the eyes getting red and watering-up. I’m not leaking, but sometimes it gets perilously close.

This is a concern to me. I was raised in a world where it was a sign that the boy had disappeared when tears no longer ran. Manly men did not cry. Drop a hammer on your foot, just shake it off. An armful of road-burn when you fell off your bike? Rub some dirt on it and laugh it off.

There’s another thing about this embarrassment. Far and away, it happens at good moments, at good times, at good things.

Recent case in point. I was at Mass, the Fifth Sunday of Lent. The homily had just been preached and the young priest told us to stay in our seats for a moment. He asked parents with their little ones who were preparing for first Communion to stand. He asked them a few questions for a public vow of their sacramental wishes for their kids.

Then he asked just the kids to come forward, and they came up from various sections of the church. It looked like about 10 kids at this Mass.

He had them face the altar and welcomed them with just a few sentences on the meaning of the Eucharist. He asked them their own brief series of questions. And was wise enough to broadly hint at how they might answer.

He then asked us all to stand and had the boys and girls turn to face the congregation. They were so little, so wide-eyed, so faithful. We applauded without being asked, and you could see those wide smiles on the kids from the back pew.

And that’s when it happened. As I watched those happy faces so ready to learn of the mystery and miracle of the Eucharist — of Christ real and present among us and within us — the eyes got red, and I could feel it coming.

So much negative in this world. So much that goes bad that I have to do an examination of conscience every night.

And then there it is, right in front of me — faith, hope and charity and our 2,000-year Catholic heritage.

And I thought of my mother’s first Communion photo, of my children’s first Communion, of my grandchildren’s first Communion. Of my first Communion.

I got to be straight with you. It was enough to make a grown man cry.

Robert P. Lockwood writes — and sheds a few manly tears from time to time — from Indiana.