I am so easily brought to tears. When seeing a Vermeer for the first time, or listening to Rachmaninoff's Vespers, or remembering Mimi, my Spanish-speaking, beautiful grandmother. But I didn't inherit that trait from her; she was a stoic in her heart, a clear-thinking master of her emotions.
Which is why I remember so clearly, standing in front of her at the Kansas farmhouse as she sat on the sofa and leaned back. I must have been nine, and asked about their lives growing wheat for so many seasons. Mimi said that it had saved their lives, not simply another way to make a living. She told me that because he was a farmer, Papa wasn't drafted for the war. And then she began to cry quietly as she remembered the day of Pearl Harbor.
It wasn't until September 11, 2001, walking our diminished class of nine-year-old boys to dismissal through throngs of changed-faced people an avenue block away, that I would begin to know what Mimi had felt, what made her tears fall only once in front of me, more than forty years after the fact.
It was a deep force of nature that hurtled itself inland, not a dive-dropped bomb or a plane, that brought down Mexico City buildings on September 19, 1985. Remembering that morning and the unimaginable days that followed is in many ways the same for those who lived here and lived through it's weight.
It seems that every generation is touched by a sadness that will leave an infinity of questions unanswered. But I wish that it would bring more people to tears. Mastering one's passions is one thing, being led to continued, future compassion is another. And clear-headed compassion is always precisely what we need.