The Donut Heart

Johnny and I chatted over video the other night.

We covered several important topics.

First on the agenda: high school sports. Johnny has made some plans for future athletic endeavors. He’s also chosen a high school, planning to follow in Michael’s footsteps. With only 8 years remaining before enrollment, it’s good he’s thinking through these things. Time flies and I wouldn’t want him unprepared.

There is some basis for this conversation. We recently received a post card in the mail from Marmion, highlighting the athletic offerings of the school and seeking support for the Parent Sports Booster Club. Michael has run cross country and played both basketball and volleyball at Marmion. Michael’s picture is featured as part of the photo montage on the post card. Ironically, this wasn’t his greatest athletic moment.

Photo by Marmion Academy

In fact, this was a terrible race for Michael as he was struggling with cramps at the finish. He turned in an 18:48 run which isn’t a competitive time for a 3-mile high school race. This picture captures the cramping as well as the time. Michael agreed to be included in the montage, recognizing that we don’t always get to control our 15 minutes of fame. Personally, I love the photo. Because he finished the race despite the pain. And there’s a life lesson in that: sometimes you run to win, sometimes you run to finish.

Photo by Marmion Academy

Anyways, Johnny has been carrying this post card around the past few weeks, studying his options. And he wanted to tell me about his selections. Here’s the conversation:

Johnny: “Mom, did you hear about my sport schedule for Marmion?” 

Me: “No, I haven’t. But I’d love to hear your thoughts.”

Johnny: “Soccer and baseball in summer and spring. Boxing in the winter. Cross country in spring.”

There are several problems with that schedule. The sports and their respective seasons don’t match up. You can’t play multiple sports in a season. And I’ve never heard of a high school boxing team. But maybe Johnny will start one. Or maybe he means wrestling.

As Johnny talked, not a inch of him remained still. He was sprawled out, belly down on the coffee table, arms extended out to the sides. Pushing himself forward and back. Forward and back. He would frequently look up at the screen, to verify that I was still paying attention. He then returned to this repetitive motion as he talked. Forward and back. Forward and back. He’s all boy, a bundle of perpetual energy. He’s desperately waiting for spring soccer and summer baseball. I pray for his coaches and look forward to sitting in the stands again.

We moved on to the second agenda item: Becky’s cardiac anatomy.

Johnny: “Mom, how is Becky’s donut heart?”

Me: “What do you mean, Johnny?”

Johnny: “Well, her heart has a hole in it. And there’s a hole in a donut. So, she has a donut heart.”

As I watched my screen and listened to Johnny’s musings, I smiled and chuckled a bit. As Becky lay in the crib next to me, recovering from open heart surgery, Johnny was planning his future. And he has no reason to doubt in it. That means he is confident and secure. And very well looked after in my absence. My heart is full of gratitude: to my husband, my other children, his Kindergarten teacher, our family friends. I’m especially grateful to Becky’s godparents who have stepped in to provide afterschool care for Johnny. They have given him stability and structure. And snacks.

I love hearing how he processes all that is going on. It was a great conversation which wrapped up dreams of future sporting glory with concern for his baby sister. As his 6 year-old mind tried to find context for Becky’s situation, he landed on fried pastries. It’s a great analogy. A donut heart. There’s the hole in the middle, of course. But it’s sweet and loved by all.

Photo by cottonbro on

Just like a Becky. Just like Johnny.

8 thoughts on “The Donut Heart

  1. Precious beyond belief, this had us laughing hysterically! We could just picture Johnny sliding back and forth on the coffee table while discussing his future life plans with you. Whatever he does in high school, I hope we’re around to see it. And thanks for the life lessons on the best way to run a race and think about donuts, ❤️


  2. Having eaten Krispy Kreme donuts for some 70 years, I will now always think of Johnny & Becky when we go (of course they are some of the goodies I gave up for Lent!) Has Johnny thought about swim team-best just not on the coffee table😝 love, Aunt Cynthia☘☘


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