A Father's Advice

“Until you study human history, you have no idea how resilient you are.” He closed the book he was reading and took off his glasses. He set them atop the hard cover upon which was a title that I couldn’t quite make out. I knew he was about to pontificate, so I sat back in the leather chair, folded my hands in my lap, and affected the most disinterested look I could muster. “You come to me with complaints about the most minor of things, my son. Did you know that only a hundred years ago German artillery shells that exploded not only into clouds of deadly shrapnel, but also unleashed clouds of tear gas, rained down on Russian soldiers? That was the first time in the history of war that a military force used gas in that manner. It was a failure, as freezing weather and winds dissipated the worst of it, but you’d better believe that it scared the shit out of those young men. Men your age, huddled together in bunkers and trenches, waiting for the whistling fall of a shell, and wondering if their time was up. That’s not the point I’m making here; I’m speaking more to those lucky enough to survive the whole ordeal. They went in one end of the meat grinder that was the Great War and came out the other end no better than processed sausage, penniless and jobless after risking their lives for years. Years! And you come to me with your tales of woe and heartbreak, and while I’m sympathetic—as hard as it may be for you to believe, I was once a young man myself—I find it hard to truly empathize with you knowing the kinds of things that others have suffered through with far more dignity.”

“What you’re saying then, Dad, is that you’d care more if I’d been through your idea of hell instead of the one I find myself in?” I tried not to sound exasperated, but the old man brought that out of me.

“No. God no. The last thing I’d ever hope for any child of mine is to have to endure the horrors of war. I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of a generation and country that hasn’t had to send its sons or daughters off to die for national ideals, and I pray every day that this peace will continue. Though if you watch the news for any length of time that looks less and less likely. No, all I’m saying is that you’ll get over your broken heart. It will mend. Look, son, I know she was a wonderful young lady and that you were deeply in love with her, but you’re going to have to take my word for it when I say there are other hearts out there desperately seeking one as kind and generous as yours. And I know that, right now, you think hers was the only one for you, and it might feel like that for a very long time, but if you keep your head up and keep moving forward it’ll only be a matter of time before you stumble on another. And hopefully that one will be more worthy of your attention!” He put his glasses back on and made to resume his reading, a soft sign of dismissal. I stood to leave. “Oh, and one other thing. I probably shouldn’t tell you this but…” he rapped the blotter on his desk. “You’re young and life is long, and these things tend to move in cycles. This love you’ve lost today could very well be found and restored somewhere further down the line. Lord knows that’s how it was with your mother and I, more than once.” Satisfied he had said his piece, he waved me off.

2015.01.30 – 2023.08.27

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