Saturday, March 26, 2016

Can You Keep a Secret?

I certainly can’t, or at least, it’s hard for me. I have no problem keeping the tough stuff, the stuff people deserve to keep to themselves, secret. But it’s the good stuff that gets me every time. Engagements, admissions to college, new jobs—I know I need to take my cue from the people whose news it actually is, but it kills me to wait. I want the world to know…preferably, know it from me first!

But I realize not everyone is like this. Some people don’t share as much of their own lives as I do. Some people don’t feel the need to announce their ALL their insecurities, stupid mistakes, mental health issues, etc. the way I do. Some people can sit on glad tidings for days! Even weeks! It baffles me!

Some people are just much more private than I am. Take my father, for example. Dad told his family

Dad in his Navy days! Never heard a word about them!
next to nothing about himself, ever. I remember a homework assignment from one of the nuns in school, asking us to interview our parents about their lives. Mom Joanie readily complied, filling pages with her personal stories. When it was Dad’s turn to be questioned by me, he said (and I quote), “Tell Sister Brendan that it’s none of her damn business.” Then he left the room. I think I ended up telling Sister that Dad was out of town that week.

As a result, I only heard some of the colorful tales of Dad’s life second-hand…such as those of his own father, Pop Cunningham. Pop, as an 8th grader in 1913, used to leave for school in the morning, and end up instead at the horse stables in Central Park, smoking cigars and drinking sarsaparilla. Pop
Little Me and the Notorious Pop
grew up to have some rather shady “associates” in his trucking business. Once he left the state for a few years and laid low in Chicago (I believe evading income taxes). Pop had his kneecaps broken one night by a couple of goons he had crossed. He would proudly point out the huge gilt-edged mirror hanging in Luchow’s Restaurant—and the bullet hole in the frame, courtesy of him, during a wild party there. What a character!!! The budding writer in me could NOT understand keeping him a secret, but my dad was totally mum.

So I came to equate “keeping secrets” with selfishly hoarding important information, and was determined to be an open book. Everyone knew when I was pregnant by the third day after conception. Everyone knew all my mothering and acting bloopers. And, alas, everyone knew some things about my kids that I’m sure they’d have much preferred they didn’t.

Over time, I’ve learned to curb the blabbing somewhat, but it’s an ongoing issue with me. You can trust me to the grave with your sad secrets, but don’t let me hear about your award, your new career, or other personal triumph. It may be your news to share, not mine, but that hasn’t stopped me yet!

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