“A Broken Heart Don’t Cost Nuthin’ But A Crack In Your Soul” OR “Age Is Just A Number”
About four years back, when my boy Harry was in the first grade, he fell hard for a little girl, a classmate of his named Katie Pappas. As his Aussie principal would happily put it to my ex-wife and me in his thick South Pacific pitch, they were as “thick as thieves”. With a faraway look in his eyes, Harry would go on and on about this child, how they were going to get married, have “lots of kids”, how he would become a drummer and that they would move to Hollywood and we could all live with them in the building that he planned on buying.
I had the pleasure of meeting the young Miss Pappas at a Valentine’s Day dance that Harry’s school was hosting that winter. He could not have been more proud in introducing me. This from a first grader. A favorite picture of my boy is one that I took that night: Katie and Harry, side by side, with their arms around each other, heads slightly tilted in the other’s direction, both looking so sweet and content, without any of the youthful awkwardness that comes in too few years. Harry, slightly taller, with his strawberry blond hair, blue button down Oxford cloth shirt, and Katie with her wide, almond eyes and Greek olive skin, both holding cups of sugary fruit punch as both of their wide smiles were messily stained red by the drink. “This”, I thought to myself, “this is the photo to hide away in the off-chance that my son’s dream comes true, and I can show him where it all began”.
As it turned out, prior to the end of the school year, my son came to me and said that “Katie is going to marry someone else”. Honestly, he looked more crest-fallen than he did when I explained to him that Daddy wasn’t going to be able to live with him anymore due to my divorce. Well, you may or may not have had to have ”the love talk” with your kid, but I promise, if you haven’t as of yet, it ain’t going to be easy. For either of you.
I did the best that I could with it, with as much honesty from my experience as I could muster. He deserved that as much anyone with their first broken heart would. The fact that I was having this discussion with my little son? It was kinda hard.
I told him that I understood, that even though it wasn’t going to make him feel any better, we’ve all been through this. “The sad fact of it, sweetheart, is that there will be more than one ‘Katie Pappas’ in your life; I’ve had a few myself; that if you give your heart, you may have it handed back to you.”
“The key”, I continued, “is to remember this one for all of its joy and fun and smiles, and sooner or later, the pain will go and the fondness will remain. You’ll never forget her.”
“I know, Daddy”, he said.
I’m pretty sure he didn’t understand much of what I was telling him, however, he was gracious enough to listen and say thank you. It broke my heart that my boy, at such a young age, was experiencing this, but its how the world works and I was not surprised.
This got me to thinking about my own childhood, in particular the years when the real & perceived “awkwardness” kicks in.
I was at the same age when I became vaguely aware of the opposite sex and my interactions with them. Confusing? Most certainly. Not out of the norm for any of us, right? In addition to the small rumblings of the onset of puberty, I was already feeling “oddly out of place”, as I was pasty, bone-thin, with new braces, and as luck would have it, my first pair of eyeglasses.
Did anyone notice? Dunno. Actually, probably not, as it is the case today, the world did not revolve around me then, either. But, as we all know, the subsequent years can be brutal, in more ways than one.
I think of Harrison and the journey that he is embarking on. Not only of the immediate hurdles that he shall encounter, but of the ones untold. It doesn’t really do me any good to worry about them, as I’ve no control over any outcomes, but as a parent, I can’t help it…
Its the bittersweet gift, I guess, of parenthood: that little glimmer from my childhood, misplaced so long ago, that’s re-ignited in my gut, while observing the milestones of my son’s life. Nature & nurture, hand in hand, I believe its my job to walk him through them the best that I can.
Long may you run, Harry, with the hopes of a firm ground.