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Sit down.

by Spencer Reaves about a month ago in humanity
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My father cries.

Sit down.

Those are terrifying words from my father. He’s a country boy, he’s military, he’s a prison guard. Sit down is what he says when our mother threatened to tell Dad about our behavior a time too often. The follow through, you know?

This meant grounding. Or maybe we’d lose swimming pool or matinee privileges. I tried to think what we’d been caught at.

He wasn’t crying when I sat down at the table. His eyes though, those were red and blood shot. I would have guessed a late night with the boys, but he didn’t reek of beer.

I don’t remember who asked what was wrong, it was one of us girls. I was 7, my sisters 9 and 10.

Your mom had a stroke. They took her to the hospital.

Then he cried, sure. Who wouldn’t have? I was so shocked, my dad crying? My small-town self thought of him as the rough, tough, be-a-hero masculine — seeing a man like him cry! He stood six foot, athletic, handsome. And sobbing.

I think we held each other. All four of us. My giant dad, three little girls. He helped us get ready for school every day until Mom came home. My outfits never matched, my socks were always clean.

A few years later, it was time to sit down again.

My cousin and aunt had been in a car crash. We were close, my cousin was 11, just like me. We liked the same boys. He cried again. He held me, and he cried. And I felt safe crying too.

I turned 14. We’d moved closer to family to help with Mom on her bad days. He was struggling. We weren’t easy girls. There was a barbecue.

Sit down, he said after.

He had blood on his knuckles. My uncle had made a comment, my dad threw a punch. It turned to a fight.

He wasn’t proud. I asked him what my uncle said, he didn’t want to repeat it. My sister knew, she said it for him. Trash, my uncle said, Mom was trash, useless, she’d be better dead than a burden. He dad cried. My dad, the man that my friends all had crushes on, crying again.

This time, I held him. My sisters too, we knew he wasn’t perfect.

But he was real, not some child hero. We could imagine him as a young man, pretty suit, marrying the love of his life. This wasn’t the plan for them. We could imagine him by her side, her screaming, him crying, waiting, waiting, for each of us. He didn’t think he’d be the one explaining periods and sewing up doll dresses.

We saw him since, helping her learn to hold a pencil again, doing the dishes after work, singing softly their wedding song, buying her a teddy bear every year, same way he has since they were teenage sweethearts.

Tears are weird, aren’t they? They humanize. I thought back at 7, why would I want my dad to cry? Why would I want anything but a knight in shining armor?

It’s okay to not be okay, his tears taught me that. I’ve never worried about asking for comfort; never worried that I have to handle something difficult on my own; never thought I had to bottle it up, play it down, be the strong one.

A few days ago, he walked through my front door.

Sit down, I said. We talked scotus. I cried some, and so did he, that’s the thing, it’s still okay. He makes it still okay to not be okay. And when my kids came in, looking at us like we’re crazy, my dad told them to sit down too. He told them about when he was a kid, his mother had cried about a Roe ruling too, but her tears were those of joy. They asked questions, they asked for perspective.

My kids know how to feel what they feel, when to ask for help, and when to support other people going through their own thing. How to be human, right? They learned it from me, and I learned it from him.

The story of my dad is more than this. The lessons, the love, and the shit, oh there’s shit too, but I think this encompasses all that. He’s here, life happens, and hell, he tries, but he’s only human.


About the author

Spencer Reaves

Storyteller. That’s all.

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insights

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  3. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (9)

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  • Linda Rivenbarkabout a month ago

    This amazing story showed me a clear picture of a strong but gentle spirit who rose to the challenge of being a Dad in good times and in bad times. I really enjoyed reading this story.

  • Lea Springerabout a month ago

    Very touching and very true. It's something that all parents need to show their children--crying helps the hurt out. There was a song about that once.

  • Emily Dickersonabout a month ago

    This took a wild turn at the end. I love the destigmatization of men crying though. I tell my Mexican fiance all the time to ignore the stereotypes of machismo and let it go. It's okay to cry. This was very a very touching article because I've only seen my dad cry maybe three times in 23 years of my life. He hasn't learned to let go of machismo and be vulnerable and human.

  • Amir Taylorabout a month ago

    Great read. I have to remind myself that it is ok to not be ok.

  • Cristina Hectorabout a month ago

    As a mother of two boys this resonated with me. We are all only human indeed...Thank you for sharing💛

  • David Marsdenabout a month ago

    Well written. All men cry, sometimes in secret though.

  • CJ Asherabout a month ago

    Loved this so much, great read!

  • Carol Townendabout a month ago

    I was always told 'men don't cry.' Men were often stigmatised for crying in my younger years, and they were seen as cowards and weak for it. I'm proud of you and your dad; and I'm proud of you for seeing that 'it's okay not to be okay.'

  • Jessica Amber Barnumabout a month ago

    Spencer, I love this so much. Tears do humanize indeed. My dad has taught me that too. Your writing is hypnotic, pulled me right in. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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