Yesterday, Emy Army Bunny asked if I was going to let her use the Passat this weekend for her one year anniversary celebration with her boyfriend. I gave her an honest answer, something along the line of “Why, did pigs finally fly?” She stormed off as I tried to backtrack and tell her we'd figure out how to get her where she needed to be.
A few minutes later, her boyfriend broke up with her via text message. He said that he had tried to break up with her in person but couldn't do it because she cried every time he tried. We found out when she posted this on Facebook: “I knew it would hurt. and I saw it coming. but it hurts so bad.” and later “My head hurts. Oh who am I kidding? Everything hurts.” I told her, fine, she could use the Passat but, as you may have guessed, what she drives this weekend has become the least of her concerns.
Two days after she broke up with her last boyfriend, she was already talking about another cute boy who had caught her eye. This one was different, serious, too serious, and she's taking it hard. When her mom tried to console her, she shirked her off and told her to leave her alone, so that's what we've done.
My first serious girlfriend broke up with me when I was her age. I still joke that I never really got over it and in a lot of ways, that's the truth. As the song says,“we learned about love in the back of a Dodge,” though it was actually a Plymouth and we never got in the back because she was a good girl.
I was just so young and so innocent that I never thought about a thing but the bliss of being in love. I lived to be alone with her, kissing her, fondling her breasts (outside of her shirt, never inside the bra and God do I know that because I tried and tried and tried.) We lived in the moment like grownups can't and never thought ahead to things like marriage, or college or what the future held but neither did it ever occur to me that we wouldn't always be together.
All I wanted was to just be with her and I assumed that she felt the same. When she dumped me I was crushed beyond anything I could even imagine at that age. That's when my penchant for sappy songs began and I even think I reached a point when I began to confuse love with pain.
Sad songs of broken hearts and unrequited love became virtually indistinguishable from real love songs in my twisted heart and I've spent a lifetime chasing girls who were bound to do me wrong, ever since. At some point, I caught on to this destructive pattern and it enabled us to sustain our relationship for over a decade now, but it took a lot of broken hearts to get here.
When I was in my early thirties and struggling with a bad relationship, I took a trip with my then 12 year old daughter. We took turns playing our music. I'd play a cassette, then she'd play one of hers. It struck me how all of the music she listened to at that time had lyrics of innocent proclamations that 'Girl, I'll love you forever and never do you wrong and my heart is true, girl'. They said 'girl' a lot. What was that about?
Mine was all about the anger and angst of having been wronged, the struggle to keep love alive and how complicated relationships are. Her music was innocence and promise, mine was about how was the struggles of life and love.
Years later, when she was an adult and nursing a broken heart of her own, I turned her on to Jackson Browne's album I'm Alive, which had just nursed me through my latest broken heart. It became a bit of a bonding moment. I think we both thank Darryl Hannah for breaking Jackson's heart and producing one of the greatest break-up albums ever.
My own dad, who would be celebrating his 91st birthday this week, didn't think much of my penchant for broken hearts. Dad was pretty pragmatic and could never understand the guys he knew who left their wives for another woman. “If you can't make it work with one woman, what makes you think you can make it work with another?”
It's not that Dad thought all women were interchangeable parts. It's just that he understood that if you can't make a relationship work, you'd do well to look inside yourself for the answers, rather than outside. It took me a lot of years and a lot of kicks to the groin to get that, but it actually is more complicated than that.
While I've tried to heed his advice and look inside myself for the answer to my relationship woes, the truth is that any success I've had in my current relationship is due more to the fact that I've found someone who puts up with my sorry ass.
Dad's been gone for over 30 years now so I've actually lived more of my life without him than with him, yet there's hardly a day goes by that I don't think about him. Lately I think about him more than usual, maybe because a good friend is about to lose his own father.
My mother's birthday is nine days after my Dad's and I'm headed home for my annual birthday visit. Every time I visit, I wonder if this might be the last time I'll see her alive. She'll be 89 and I see a little less spark in her eyes each time I see her. Mom's always been terrified of death but now I wonder if maybe she's worn down to the point where she's ready. I don't know if I should mourn that or celebrate it.
What does any of this have to do with Emy Army Bunny and her broken heart? I'm not really sure. Spring, Dad, Mom, my own mortality and my need for wise guidance and the kidlet's broken heart are all floating around in my mind's ether and they are connected in ways that are hard to see up close. You have to stand back and get some perspective.
I think it's a cycle of life thing. While hearts can be broken at any age, they are mostly the domain of the young. First broken hearts are a coming of age marker of sorts and to tell you the truth, I'd give almost anything to go back to my first broken heart. Of course, I'd want to take with me the perspective of my half-century plus.
If I could, I'd recognize that it's all a part of moving through the seasons of life and that there will be other loves, great and small, and yes, other broken hearts. I don't want to trivialize her pain but to celebrate it. It means that you're alive and vibrant and you haven't had your heart hardened yet so the whole world really is still your oyster.
Maybe I'd take a renewed appreciation for the people I've lost; a new determination to learn from them, soak in their wisdom, dance in their aura and just love them while I still can. What's a little broken heart when you get that in exchange?
When you're young, you face the world with fierceness and when you fall, you fall with the hard thump of someone who doesn't yet know to brace for it. As you grow older, it is all too easy to let that resiliency slip into the sadness of watching life fade away, too afraid to fall again, all too easy to wallow in emptiness while the people you love disappear in one way or another. You learn too late that the secret to a happy life is learning to accept loss.
If I could explain that to her, would it help? Probably not.
The good news is that now Emy Army Bunny won't need my car this weekend. As for the boyfriend, I think it might have gone easier for both of them if he'd learned the old 'it's not you, it's me', routine