A secret about me that people who think I'm tough would never guess is that I cry easily. Not at work, of course - sob stories during interviews make me want to laugh out loud; but at home, at the movie theater, reading a kids' book at Barnes - you name it, I tear up. Anytime I sense a real emotion that overwhelms me in someone else, I empathize with it as if it is my own. I feel the emotion as if the story is mine. I am invested.
Just recently, Steve lost his grandma. And grandpa was over at Christmas - his first Christmas in over fifty years without her. He still wore his wedding ring and says, "we" at the beginning of every story, but with no one for him to turn to with that knowing smile, allowing her to finish his sentences. And it overwhelmed him. When he started choking up, I choked up. Big fat tears ran down our cheeks in streams.
I can't imagine. I don't have nearly the history with Steve that grandpa does with grandma, but even with what little we have shared, we're so invested in each other. Life without Steve would sink me into a depression I'm not sure I would ever climb out of. And I don't know how grandpa did it today. Smiled while opening presents and making jokes and giving hugs. I wouldn't even get out of bed.
Tough exteriors are usually safely guarding a tender heart inside.