Thursday, April 28, 2016

Lessons From Elders

Can someone please explain the word "Love"? The English language really knows how to diminish the value of emotions vs commitments-particularly when it comes to this word. We throw the word around with food, style, acquaintances, lovers, children, and even our spouses. Although I am fiercely passionate about words and writing, this word has always tripped me up. Until my early 20s, it was sacred to me and only used on my closest of female friends and family. I told my mother one day, "I'm never telling a boy I love him until I'm 100% sure we are getting married!" I thought I had it all figured out. My mother responded with her typical, annoyingly accurate wisdom. She said, "Well if you truly do love someone, why would you ever hold back the blessing of sharing that knowledge with them?Why would you hold back your love from them?" I could argue that, well they should know based on my actions. But some people NEED to be told. That being said, I return to the question. WHAT is LOVE?

I had the privilege of witnessing love last night. This story is shared with permission. 

Fifty-seven years ago, a twenty year old boy in the Navy was stationed in Alaska. One of his buddies had a picture of a cousin on the wall, a beautiful, ninety-five pound girl with the blush of youth on her cheeks and curls from those old-fashioned rollers in her hair. He describes her as "just the purtiest thing I ever saw!" The boy asked the cousin for her mailing address and began to write to her. The girl was fifteen at the time and with her parents' blessing, they began corresponding. For a solid year they wrote from thousands of miles apart without meeting in person. He proposed in one of the letters and she recounts, "I didn't answer him because I wanted to make sure he was who he seemed to be." 

A year after their correspondence began, the boy traveled across country to meet the "girl of his dreams". He called when he was about thirty minutes away and she, not knowing he was coming, began to panic as her hair was in rollers and she was in no way "presentable". She ran to her mother who told her, "If he is the right man for you, he will love you no matter what!" When they met, he greeted her with a big hug and kiss, not even noticing the bobby pinned curlers. The next day, he picked her up from school (high school). She was sixteen at the time. When they arrived at her home, he got down on one knee and pulled out an engagement ring. With her parents' blessing, they were married three months later.

The couple I met, was a far cry from the budding youngsters of 57 years ago. She had put on some weight ("she keeps just giving me more to love!" is how he described it) and was no longer able to walk. He was hunched over a bit more and moving a bit slower. Both had sun-weathered faces. Both shared four children, twenty-something grandchildren, and a host of great-grandchildren. Both had an unmistakable twinkle in their eye and the most genuine smiles on their faces. They shared with me stories from their 56 years of marriage and their loved spilled over on everyone in the room. She had been ill and he had been caring for her. I watched as he gently wiped the sweat from her brow and pined over here as if she was the most precious of flower in a garden. He had carefully documented her medical history and was patiently available any time one of us pesky medical people had another question for them. Both were completely in love with one another. 

I asked them, what was their secret? What one piece of advice could they give me? Both said simultaneously, "Communication, giving each other space, and not always having to be right." Throughout my time with them, both took turns describing the other in a positive light. They had spent years becoming experts on the positive traits of one another and had encouraged growth in one another by framing and displaying those.

This was a pure form of love. It was an old-fashioned form, but the basic principals can apply-not just to romantic relationships, but to others as well. 

1. Communication. Even when it's difficult. Hash it out.

2. Take breaks. Don't suffocate the person. You cannot miss them if you are always together.

3. You don't always have to be right. Get your pride out of the way and take the time to hear the other person's side.

Forgive me for grammatical errors-this has yet to be proofed but I am writing before I forget specific details. To be continued (and edited)...

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