Careful What You Ask For
GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:
Welcome back to SNAP JUDGMENT, the "Gratitude" special. Today, we're highlighting some of the stories from the past year that we are especially thankful for. And next up, we're going to SNAP JUDGMENT "Live", where you get the best seat in the house for an amazing performance of Mr. Jack McCarthy.
(SOUNDBITE OF SNAP JUDGMENT LIVE)
WASHINGTON: Hello, ladies and gentleman, this is just getting started. We just had the youngest person ever on the SNAP stage, and now we're about to go to the original gangster. Mr. Jack McCarthy is a legend in the performance storytelling circles. I cannot wait for you to hear him. I'm going to get out of the way. Mr. Jack McCarthy.
JACK MCCARTHY: Thank you for that introduction, Glynn. I don't mind being called original but gangster might be a bit of a stretch.
MCCARTHY: I was just old enough to be out on the sidewalk by myself. And every day, I would come home crying, beaten up by the same little girl.
MCCARTHY: I was Jackie, the firstborn, the apple of every eye. Christos Demenus (PH) bewildered me, and as soon as she'd hit me, I'd bawled like a baby. I knew that boys were not supposed to cry, but they weren't supposed to hit girls either. And I was shocked when my father said, hit her back. I thought it was a great idea.
MCCARTHY: But the only thing I remembered about that girl today is the look that came over her face after I did hit her back. She didn't cry. Instead her eyes got narrow, and I thought, Jackie, you just made a terrible mistake. And she really beat the crap out of me.
MCCARTHY: It was years before I trusted my father's advice again.
MCCARTHY: I eventually learned to fight enough to protect myself from girls. But the real issue was the crying. And that hasn't gone away. Oh, I don't cry anymore. I don't sob. I don't make noise. I just have hair-triggered tear ducts and always at all the wrong things. Tom Bodett saying, we'll leave the light on for you. I always cried at the last scene of "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy."
MCCARTHY: In movies, I despise the easy manipulation that never even bothers to engage my feelings. It just comes straight from my eyes, but there's not a damn thing I can do about it. And I hate myself for it. The surreptitious nose-blow, the discrete four minutes after the offending scene. My daughters are on to me, my wife, they all know exactly when to give me that crick, sidelong glance. What must they think of me?
In real life, I don't cry anymore when things hurt - never a tear at 17 when my mother died, my father. I never cried for my first marriage. But today, I often cry when things turn out well, an unexpected act of simple human decency, new evidence against all odds of how much someone loves me. I think all of this is why I never wanted a son. I always suppose my son would be like me and that when he'd cry, it would bring back every indelible humiliation of my own life. And in some word or gesture, I'd betray what I was feeling and he'd mistake that and think I was ashamed of him. He'd carry that for the rest of his life. I know.
Daughters - daughters are easy. You can pick them up. You can hug them. You can say, there, there, it's all right. Everything is going to be all right. And for that moment, you really believe that you can make enough of it right, enough - the unskilled labor of love. And if you cry a little with them for all of the inevitable, gratuitous meanness of life, that crying is not to be ashamed of.
But for years, my great fear was the moment that I might have to deal with a crying son. But I don't have one. We came close once between Megan and Kathleen. The doctors told us there was something wrong, and when Joan went into labor, they said the baby would be born dead. But he wasn't. Very briefly, before he died, I heard him cry.
WASHINGTON: Last year, the world lost a true gentleman. I was honored and grateful to work with Jack McCarthy, a man who kept making magic right to the very end. Thank you, Jack, for everything.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.