Toothache and Tragedy: The Truth behind a broken heart

July 29, 2017
Toothache and Tragedy:  The Truth behind a broken heart
Twining’s Earl GreyVivaldi: Concerto in D for Lute & Strings, RV 93 – 3. Allegro

Dear Erica,

I just found out that my mother was in love with another man before she married my father. She has been getting on in years and let slip that her college boyfriend died at Vietnam, and she married my father almost immediately in a knee-jerk reaction. When she saw my shocked face, she quickly covered and said she of course loved my father, but I can’t get the story of her young lover dying in Vietnam out of my head. I just feel like deep down she must have been miserable all her life.   Any words of advice?

Traumatized in Tennessee

Dear Traumatized in Tennessee,

I can understand that you are shocked and upset. Your mother’s loss was tragic. But, I don’t believe she was miserable all her life. I am reminded of some wise words, uttered by a character in Anne of Avonlea. Miss Lavendar, an older friend of Anne Shirley, explains that a broken heart is not as dreadful as one imagines.

“I’m really a very happy, contented little person in spite of my broken heart. A broken heart in real life isn’t half as dreadful as it is in the books. It’s a good deal like a bad tooth…though you won’t think that a very romantic simile. It takes spells of aching and gives you a sleepless night now and then, but between times it lets you enjoy life and dreams and echoes and peanut candy as if there were nothing the matter with it….That’s the worst…or the best…of real life, Anne. It won’t let you be miserable. It keeps on trying to make you comfortable… and succeeding…even when you’re determined to be unhappy and romantic.”Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

I wouldn’t worry that your mother was lying to you when she told you she was happy with your father.  She clearly realized, like Miss Lavendar, that life will not let you be miserable. Despite the pain she felt at her young love’s death, I am sure she felt great joy in the family she created with your father.  As we get older, it is only natural that we are haunted by pain and loss in life. But, life is how we treat the ups and downs, how we fight them.  Your mother may have had the occasional bout of nostalgia for her young lover, but like a bad tooth, a broken heart must eventually mend, even if it is never exactly the same.  And as unpleasant as a visit to the dentist is, once the novocaine has worn off, we can always enjoy a nice cup of tea and a cream puff.  Those little pleasures in life never disappear.