Sunday, February 5, 2012
It is that time of the year, when the aisles are filled with red hearts, confetti, and pink flowers, where love is commercialized to its finest, and romance permeates the air. Thus it is time for my annual Valentine's day blog. This year I have thought long in hard about what I want to say, what I have learned over the last year, and what I hope to find in the future. I have learned that to know love and joy you must also experience pain and sorrow, and to truly appreciate companionship you must know solitude. But, perhaps the best way to show how I have been moved, changed, and amazed by love, is a series of true short stories from the last year.
Love is blind. It was just a week ago, I was in the Veteran's Hospital waiting for a patient to get out of the restroom when I wandered over to his roommate's side of the curtain. I looked at the old man with gray hair sleeping peacefully, and smiled as I turned to look at his bulletin board across from his bed. The board was filled with pictures of him and his wife. It started from their engagement pictures and documented every 10th anniversary up to the 70th anniversary. There was something so beautiful to me, as I watched the relationship between these two people I had never met, their mannerisms, how they actually looked more comfortable with each other with age. I was surprised to see as I turned around that the man in bed was awake. I told him I was just enjoying his pictures, the man responded with words I couldn't understand so I went to the side of his bed. When I arrived the man grabbed my hand and said with clarity, I love you. I don't know what it was, the fact that the man continued to not say another comprehensible thing, or the fact that no man besides my father had ever said this to me, but tears just began streaming down my face. I rushed to grab a photo from the bulletin board, I asked the man if he recognized the handsome gentleman in the picture, he bluntly said no without hesitation.
I often wonder what I will be like as an old woman, will I be loud, wear big hats, and eat ice cream everyday, I sure hope so. Yet more importantly if my mind is blinded with age and disease, will someone be there to love me. Will someone be there to remind me, of death do us part.
Love is patient. One of my dearest friends just got married recently. I will have to say after knowing this girl most of my life I couldn't be happier that the two of them found each other. They remind me that true companionship exists. Yet, the story she told me one day after a night of inebriation is the ultimate test of love. A girl who is known to have a queasy stomach, told me she was awakened by her husband shaking her and saying, why are my shorts wet? Upon inspection the heroic husband realizes that his wife had vomited in bed, and didn't know it. Thus they were sleeping, rolling around in vomit. He told her she had to get out of bed, so my friend feeling awful took the duvet cover and tossed it in the hall not knowing that vomit has just aerisolized and vomit was all over the floor. When my friend woke up in the morning she said she found herself in a clean bed, and a clean house. He had taken care of all her dirty work. As I was laughing until tears were running down my face, I just said now that's love. Bottom line if you can find a man who will hold your hair when you vomit, sleep with your vomit, or even better yet clean your vomit - he's a keeper.
Love is change. I have watched some of my dearest, most promiscuous guy friends become saints of holy monogamy. It's truly an amazing spectacle. We all have these friends, the college fraternity guy who was the guy every girl wanted to date. The guy who I felt honored just being labeled his friend. The guy you thought would be life's most eligible bachelor for eternity. Yet, all of this changed when he met "the girl." I'll never forget the day he told me, the shock in my eyes, as I listened to him tell me about her. I knew that she was a game changer, quite honestly his personal game changer. You see I knew his past, I knew every one of his pick up lines, and now he was smitten. This is what I love about love, It is forgiving of the past, capable of the seemingly impossible, and yet somehow together they have changed each other for the better.
Love is Life. Ghandi said it best, "Where there is love there is life." I believe this to my innermost core. I believe love is not something not just shared by two people, but something you live. It is in our interactions with others and the relationships we build. I have been so blessed to have some of the most amazing friends. The kind of friends who would fly across the country to see you in the darkest of days, send you letters in the mail, cry with you, run the last two miles of a marathon with you, eat brunch with you, and truly drop anything for you. Love is not only a noun, but more importantly a verb. To love people, work, and life is one of the greatest gifts you could ever give yourself. I have found that when you surround yourself with love, life is a little bit sunnier, even in Portland.
Love Deeply. If you know me, you know I believe in love. I believe in great loves. Perhaps I have watched one to many romantic comedies, but I truly believe that there is someone for everyone. Someone out there who can be your better half, the cheese to compliment your wine, a person who will stand by you until the end of time. Perhaps the most life changing experience for me this year has been watching the love of my mother and father, and knowing in my heart of hearts how real it was. No one talks about suffering when they talk about love. While I hate to dwell on the past, it has forever shaped the way I view love. My father taught me many things and one of them was to love deeply, to never be afraid to say the things that need to be said, to feel with your heart and not your head. I will never forget the days leading up to my father's death, how my mother never left his side, the sleepless nights, and the final day my father's life. I will never forget the pain in my mother's eyes when I told her softly, in my quietest voice that dad had passed away.
My parents had a love I could only dream of finding. That is why I wasn't surprised to learn that upon cleaning out my father's office a couple of months ago they found a letter addressed to my mother he had written before his death. The contents of the letter were the ultimate gift, a letter of love, gratitude, and a gift of hope for the future. My father's final love letter moved me to tears as he left bits of advice and comedic stories he didn't want us to forget, but most of all he wrote were phrases of endless love.
Perhaps I am a little afraid of love, how vulnerable love makes people, how trusting it forces us to be. Over time I have built these walls around my heart to protect me from the pain that loving someone can cause. Yet what I really should do is tear down those walls, because if I have learned anything it is that love is worth all the suffering, pain, and tears this world can hand you.
Thus my hope for you this Valentine's day is to not be afraid to love and feel deeply. Say the things you never say. You might just surprise yourself.