Tomorrow, F’s placement in the 1st grade place where he’s been student teaching ends. It’s only a half-day, anyway, and lots of the kids will have already left for wherever their families go for Christmas. So today was the year end/holiday/goodbye party. All the parents came in, there were lots of goodies, presents exchanged, etc.
Last night, F was packing and prepping his own gifts for the class. He bought them a stereo, since their current stereo is old and decrepit, and interferes with the weekly dance time. (That’s when the teacher says, “You know what we haven’t done in a while, friends? Dance!” and turns on the stereo and everyone goes to the mat and expresses themselves enthusiastically but within the classroom groundrules of personal space and mutual respect.) He also baked them (lactos- and nut-free) chocolate chip cookies, and wrote them a card.
While all this prep work was going on, I was doing just about the only thing I ever do at home: lying on my belly in a quiet room reading a book. F usually leaves me alone, but last night he came over me and handed me the card he’d written. Dear first graders, it said, Thank you so much for letting me teach you and be part of your lives…
“I’m sad,” he said, and burst into tears. He sobbed into my neck for about ten minutes.
My heart kind of turned over there. At different points during the last few years, as he’s worked toward switching careers (mechanic to teacher – big switch), I’ve secretly questioned whether it’s the right path for him. Last night, I realized I shouldn’t question anymore, because his heart is definitely in the right place. Despite all the hardships of this placement, it makes him cry like a baby to have to leave his kids. THAT’S the right motivation.
I also remembered that I love him more because he’s the kind of guy who’ll cry when he wants to. He’s very sentimental – a Big Softie, as I believe they’re known. I love that he’s not afraid of what he’s feeling, or of sharing it with others.
This morning I told my mother about this, since I report most things to my mother. “Poor guy,” I said. “I really feel for him. He’s so sentimental.”
“The best ones are, though,” she said. “That’s what we do in our family.”
“We women. We pick out sentimental men. We’re never like that. We’re always hard and tough. So we need men who can balance us out.”
That’s when she reminded me that today is the one-year anniversary of her father’s death. My grandpa was the Biggest of the Big Softies. He was a gentle guy, whose hobbies included cooking and gardening. I saw him just about every weekend growing up, and he would cry on both ends of the visit, when I’d kiss him hello, and then several hours later when he’s wave goodbye at his screen door while our car pulled away. He gave me a violin when I was 8, and although I never learned to play it particularly well he cried every time I played it for him. My cousins and I remember him standing in front of his mini kitchen in his basement, where he liked to spend Sunday afternoons making meatballs and pasta, holding up a finger and saying, “Waitta minoot,” then trotting off to the wine cellar to retrieve us a ginger ale.
My dad is a lot like his late father-in-law in many ways. To be honest, I’ve never seen my father cry, but I know his ways of being sentimental. I guess it’s not a surprise that this is the kind of guy I’ve ended up with.
I know some women can’t stand to see a man cry, that they aren’t interested in sentimental men, but every time I hear that I feel a little sad. I think they’re missing out on a lot of the best guys I know.