How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?

Mom and Me

I’m on the play reading committee at our local community theatre.  We read plays and make decisions about future playbills.  One of the plays submitted for consideration was Thornton Wilder’s Our Town.  I have to admit, I wasn’t anxious to read it.  It’s old…and I tend to find old plays dated, not just in their situation but in their message.  I had read almost all of the other plays under consideration so last time I was in the theatre I picked up a copy of Our Town so I could “get it out of the way”.

I was right…and I was wrong.  The characters, the situations, society in general as depicted in Our Town are very old-fashioned.  Probably not much there that young people today could relate to (and we do want to attract young audiences to keep our theatre going!)…and yet…the overall message of the play is timeless…as relevant today as it was when it was written.  All of the tiny, seemingly insignificant moments in life are precious.  We don’t pay enough attention to them.  We don’t get them back.

The message resonated with me…especially right now.  I have been dating the same man for the last three years.  I love him like I’ve never loved anyone before.  He broke up with me three months ago.  I had held out hope that he would change his mind.  He had left quite a few of his belongings behind.  It was a link to him…tenuous…but still it was something.  He hadn’t come to get them…so didn’t that mean he might be considering coming back? Yesterday he came and picked up his stuff.  I pleaded with him to reconsider…and he said no. My heart is broken.

I have only ever truly had a broken heart once before – when my husband left me many, many years ago.  My mother was my comfort then.  She was strong when I couldn’t be strong.  She reminded me I still had my children…and her.  Last night as I sat crying, nursing my broken heart, I found myself sobbing “I want my Mom!”.  I talked to her…but she gave no answer…there were no comforting hugs.  My Mom died in 2012.

When I think about my Mom it isn’t the special occasions I remember…it’s not the Christmases and the weddings and the family reunions…it’s little moments…moments that no one else would remember…moments that were just about us.  The memories came to me unbidden.  The first, when I heard myself say “I want my Mom!”  I remembered a four year old me sobbing the same phrase.  My parents had been married for 12 years by the time I was born.  They had difficulty having children.  I was a last ditch effort…an only child.  By the time I was born any love that may have once existed between them was gone.  They shared only a common determination to have a child.  With that goal accomplished they grew further and further apart.  It’s true that it’s a fine line between love and hate.  They fought.  Sometimes my father was violent.  My mother didn’t back down.  On that particular night I had stood there and watched as the two people I loved most hurled angry words at each other.  …and then my mother left…and I stood and cried “I want my Mom!  I want my Mom!”  My father couldn’t console me.  He started calling around to see if he could find her.  He eventually located her at my aunt’s house and drove me there.  I remained there with my mother for about a week…and eventually we returned home.

I loved my Dad.  He was, however, a troubled man, prone to violent fits of temper.  He grew up in extreme poverty.  He served in WWII and saw first-hand the horrors of war.  His emotional scars left him very difficult to live with.  Sometimes he would fly off the handle for no apparent reason.  When things were more “level”, life was governed by a myriad of rules.  There were rules for going to bed and for getting up. There were rules for what you said and when.  There were even rules for how you walked up and down the stairs.  As long as everyone lived by the rules, a tense peace prevailed.  There were many specific and detailed rules.  One rule applied to the way to eat Jello.  Jello was to be eaten from a small “dessert dish” with a spoon.  It was to be chewed and then swallowed and under no circumstances was it to be “slurped”.

One evening, Mom and I found ourselves home without Dad.  He was out for the evening.  Mom had worked all day and I had been at school.  It was winter so it was already dark outside in the early evening.  I remember distinctly being in the kitchen with Mom…only the light from the stove shining.  Even in the semi-darkness I could see the twinkle in Mom’s eyes.  She went to the fridge and pulled out a large serving dish filled with red Jello.  She set it on the counter and pulled two spoons from the cutlery drawer, handing one to me.  We dug in right there, standing at the counter, both slurping the Jello as loudly as we could as we ate it right from the serving dish, giggling the entire time.  It was just a small moment…but I still remember it more than 40 years later.

I’m going to make some Jello…and slurp it…and think of my Mom…and cry…and miss her.  Take time to notice the small unimportant moments in your life.  You never know which ones will return to you when you need them most.


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