Yesterday, I dropped my 17 y.o. son and his (fairly) new girlfriend off at a theme park for the day while I went to work. I dawdled at Ikea on the way home to give them more time on their date, and then picked them up early evening. Driving the young girl home, I caught glimpses of her and my son in the back seat, smiling, holding hands, and stealing an occasional kiss (although I admit I inwardly cringed at the kissing – I’m not sure I’m ready to see that just yet).
By the time I dropped her off, tears were silently streaming down my face and my son, stepping into the front seat after seeing his girlfriend safely home, took one look at me and asked “what’s wrong?” I wasn’t sure how to respond at first, so I simply said, “I’m just sad. I miss Daddy.” He reached over to put his hand on my arm, started to tear up himself and said, “me, too”.
I wasn’t sure how to explain to my son that seeing him with his girlfriend unexpectedly brought back memories of the beginnings of my relationship with his father. How it made me wonder if those around us at the time were seeing what I saw between him and his girlfriend just then. How it made me realize that my husband was going to miss this, as well as any other firsts in our family – weddings, babies, etc. – at least in the traditional sense. While I believe he is “here” with us still, his absence physically is greatly felt. And so, I stuck with my simple explanation.
After the tears subsided, he and I talked a bit as we drove, my son telling me how much he really likes this girl (and I believe him – this is the same kid who previously refused to get caught up in the “drama” of teen relationships). I told him that I wished his father could talk to him about this more because my husband would have been able to give our son the benefit of firsthand knowledge of young love. At least from the male perspective.
I know they had “the talk” on more than one occasion, and that he has seen and heard much about the early years of our own relationship throughout his lifetime. He also learned much about how to treat the one you love from his father, both by lecture and example. But the whole discussion on how serious is “too serious” or how soon is “too soon” to know if it’s love might be better coming from another man’s point of view, especially one who knew so early on himself.
Last night, my son looked at me and said, “you know… I don’t know if it’s because Dad and I talked about this stuff, or if it’s because I knew him so well, or if it’s because he’s still talking to me, but whenever I think of a question, I know how he would respond. It makes me feel better.” I told him that I believe Daddy talks to me, too, so I understood what he meant. He went on to say that he often talks to my oldest daughter about this because she seems to understand. She knows exactly when she fell in love with her current boyfriend and it was fairly early on in the relationship, too.
It seems that my husband passed along to our children the gene that allowed him to simply “know” when a relationship is right. A would have been the first one to tell you that he knew the first time he saw me that I was “the one”. I’ll admit to being smitten early on, but either I was too young and naive, a bit more protective of my heart, or simply not in possession of the same genetic trait that he was, because it took me more than one look to know. (He was definitely handsome, and I was quickly drawn in, but it took at least a few dates before I started thinking of a future with marriage and children… I was only 16, you know.)
When my husband was in the hospital following his heart attack, one of his old high school friends, one-third of a trio that was nearly inseparable, reached out via text to offer his support. He had heard about how I sat by my husband’s bedside, and whispered and sang to him, asking him to bring down his heart rate which had been much too elevated at the time. He told me then that it “didn’t surprise” him that I was able to “regulate his heart beat” because I always had. He went on to tell me how he and the third friend had to “settle for spending time” with each other, because their “best buddy’s girl trumped our companionship”. He ended the conversation conceding that “if you’re going to lose out to a girl, so glad it was you. True love is what you share, keep the faith.”
I suppose that’s what I’m trying to do as my children find their own way to love – keep the faith. I believe they will find the ones they’re meant to be with, just as their father and I did. I trust that they’ll protect their hearts, as well as the hearts of those they fall in love with, while still being vulnerable enough to open them in the first place. I have faith that they, too, will find true love. And I know their Dad will be smiling down on them and cheering them on. Help ’em pick the good ones, honey…
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