I just read an email today from a fellow Daughter who is suffering through the 35th anniversary of her father's death in Vietnam. She wrote about how she was still tearing up after all these years. How good it felt to her that someone understood, that she wasn't crazy. I know just how she feels. I've gone for months without even thinking about my dad, then one day, with no warning the sadness comes on. Perhaps I'll be reading a poem aloud to my students, maybe even a poem not about war or death at all, and who knows why, a reminder will bring tears to my throat.
Here's how it feels to swallow tears so others don't see. At first a hot pang originates in my heart cavity and spreads in waves through my body. Down my legs - my knees weaken. Down my arms - my hands start trembling. I command my knees - stand firm! My hands - grip tighter! Fear that I will cry and draw pitiful attention that will fester into rumor. Constricting throat...this is my last chance to gain control. If I let the heat enter my head I will not be able to stop the tears. All the while, I have continued reading aloud, pretending the catch in my voice was a need to swallow, and I roll my inner eye back inside my mind from intense effort to push the pain down where it will stay hidden. There is a point of no return, and I have crossed it - humiliation! But once I tame the tears they are again in my control - crouching, waiting.