Playing the part

Friday, March 22, 2013

Ted and I were watching HBO's "Real Sports" on Wednesday night during dinner: a show we can both enjoy because it features human stories about athletes....satisfying the interests of both of us.  The lead story was about Mike Tyson: A look at how he has changed, how he has softened.  He is no longer the crazy angry ear-biting boxer.  He is now living a quiet suburban lifestyle with his wife and two kids and traveling the country in a one man show.

Fascinating enough...And then we learned something else about Mike Tyson, something that many others probably already knew.  He lost a 4 year old daughter in 2009 in a freak accident - she hung herself accidentally from a loose rope hanging off of a treadmill.  And as if the story isn't horrific and shocking enough, seeing Mike Tyson crumble on camera talking about his loss, was something that felt like a punch to the gut.  The crumble was so intense, he had to stop the interview....he just couldn't continue to talk.  It was too much for him.

Ted stopped eating, pushed back his plate and got that look.  Ted gets this look of sorrow that starts in his eyes and slowly takes over his whole face and body.  It is soul crushing to see my big, strong, sweet husband sink into sorrow.  I knew it was too much.  It was too much for me as well, I felt my throat closing while watching.  But, of course, we didn't turn it off.  We need to watch these things.  As much as they hurt, they somehow help.  We are not alone.

When Ted came home from work yesterday, the first thing he said to me was how upsetting the segment was - he'd been thinking about it all day.  Tyson spoke about not wanting to cry on camera - not wanting people to see him cry.  Let's face it - men don't like for people to see them crumble.  I know this is something that Ted can relate to.  I have barely seen him cry since we lost Max but I know he does it sometimes still - when he is alone - most often in his car, listening to music.

For the last ten years, Ted has been making a CD of love songs for Valentines Day for the ladies in his life.  (He is actually a romantic - don't tell him I told you).  There are girlfriends before me who got those CDs.  These days, they come to me, Gigi, Beth and my mom.  For the last two years, the music has been for Max - song after song expressing how Ted feels about losing the love of his life - his son.  Men ARE so different from women.  They do not cry in public very often.  They have trouble expressing their emotions.  They would rather not have to say how they are feeling out loud.  I know that music has helped Ted articulate his feelings for himself.  Hearing the words come from someone else's mouth is easier in a way than having to say them himself.

Mike Tyson said that when he performs his autobiographical show, he isn't just being himself while onstage...rather, he "plays the part of himself".  It is easier for him that way.  It is such an interesting concept but one that most bereaved parents (I would guess) are doing off stage each and every day.  A slide show runs behind Tyson's head while he talks about his life.  When the subject of his daughter and her death comes up, he says that he literally cannot turn around and look at the photo.  It is too much - he would break character (the character he is playing - himself - Mike Tyson).  He knows that if he looked directly at the picture, he would come back into himself and crumble....which would cause him to break character....like he finally actually did, causing the end of the interview. 

I think that is why men look for distraction - why it seemed like it was "easier" for Ted to go right back to work after losing Max.  Not that he really had a choice but I know that it was not "easy" at all.  He had to play the part of himself so that he wouldn't crumble...  So, he did things I couldn't imagine doing - going to a fundraising event, attending small parties, hanging out with friends, traveling out of town for a football game.  He had to play the part of himself for a while...like Mike Tyson does in his show.....like I feel myself doing now.  I can tell you that lately, I am just playing the part of me. I am sure that Ted is still playing the part of himself as well.  It's ok and most of the time, it does keep us from crumbling.  Every now and then though, it is just too much - we break character.

If you are interested in seeing the interview, it is on HBOGo: http://www.hbogo.com/#sports/

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