Love Hurts

October 24, 2010
By , West Chesterfield, NH
I remember it so well. I was seven years old, sitting on the floor in front of the woodstove playing with my dog. I was giggling and carefree. My mom sat on the couch above me. I looked up at her, “mama, look, I taught her a new trick!” My mom didn’t smile down at me or congratulate me enthusiastically like I expected her to. Instead she exhaled a heavy sigh and said in a soft voice, “honey, we have something to tell you.” My heart skipped a beat. At that moment my father came over, took my hand and led me to the couch. I squished in between them, an innocent child, looking for any kind of sign from them of what this “something” might be. My mom glanced over at my dad and then began talking very slowly, “so we’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and I’ve decided I’m moving out.”

I could feel my face get hot. My head started pounding a hundred miles a minute. I felt the tears starting to brim, daring to gush over onto my red cheeks. I couldn’t believe what my mom had just said. I just stared at her for a minute trying to comprehend what was happening. They were separating? What!? “Where will I live?” I started questioning her.
“With me most of the time, but you’ll come back here sometimes,” she rested her hand on the top of my head. I looked up at her, trembling. I couldn’t make the words come out of my mouth. I inhaled with difficulty, feeling like iron hands were tightening around my neck.
“But I want us to be a family,” I finally choked out. That’s when I cracked. The tears overflowed and I convulsed into a shaking ball of fury, grief and helplessness. My mom started talking quickly, trying to calm me down.
“You know it has nothing to do with you, right honey? It’s really what we had to do.” I wanted to scream at her, “no you didn’t have to do it!” I then realized that my dad hadn’t said one word the whole time. I glanced over at him to see him just sitting there motionless. The look on his face broke my heart into a million pieces. It’s still imprinted into my mind, the exact expression he had on his face at that moment. He had tears in his eyes, focused on something across the room, deep in thought. He looked hurt, and vulnerable, two things I had never seen in my dad before. I couldn’t bear to look at him because it pained me so much. Even thinking about it now, my heart aches and my stomach drops.
That night my dad lay next to me on my bed rubbing my back as I fell asleep. I drifted off right away, only to awake a while later to the soft sound of sobs. I lay there for what felt like hours, listening to my dad beside me crying. All I did was lay there, pretending to be asleep, not wanting him to know I was seeing him this weak. It was the worst feeling I could have possibly felt, seeing my dad like hurt like that and not being able to help him.

It wasn’t just my parent’s separation that affected me. It wasn’t moving after living in the same house for seven years. It wasn’t even how I was hurt by the change in my family. Although I was hurting from those things, what affected me the most was my father’s pain. Even at a young age, another person’s pain affected me more than my own.
Then, I didn’t connect the pain I saw in my father to love. I didn’t realize that he was suffering from a broken heart. That’s something I keep with me: the feeling of seeing someone experience heartbreak, and not being able to help them. It is one of the worst feelings I can imagine, and there is nothing to do about it. Now that I’m older, and have experienced heartbreak for myself, I have realized how much pain is actually involved in love. Having experiencing this at the age of sixteen, I can’t even begin to imagine how my dad must have felt going through this.
When I was young, I saw love and pain as two separate things, but now I see them as a pair of interconnected feelings. I learned from my own heartbreak, the experience with my parent’s separation, and from my father’s pain, about love. Love hurts. It is impossible to have love without pain, and even though it is a wonderful thing, it can tear you apart more of the time then it keeps you whole.

Now, I think of my seven year-old self sitting on the floor with my dog, and can’t help but want to shake her and yell, “It’s all a trick! Don’t fall in love!” But what would that do? Just make me scared to fall in love? It’s scary, and yes, my mom and dad split up, showing it doesn’t always work out, but that doesn’t mean they regret the love that they used to share. That doesn’t mean they would change it for anything. Love hurts, but in the end, it’s the feeling you have when you’re not hurting that makes it all worth it.

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Ms. S-P said...
Oct. 29, 2010 at 2:20 pm
This piece captures the emotion of a broken heart twice over.  How often do we glimpse the raw soul of our fathers?  When we do, it is something we never forget.
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