Love is...?




When I was ten I noticed no one in my family ever used the words: “I love you.” And this carried out into my extended family. No “I love you’s,” to anyone. It was almost as if the word “love” really was a four letter word—a shameful word. An embarrassing word.
            Well, they didn’t think this way in black and white 1940's and 1950's Hollywood. Glamorous people, clouds of cigarette smoke hovering around them in a gauzy nimbus, forever leaned toward one another, and, in husky, emotionally-charged voices, emitted those wondrous words. I. Love. You.  So I grew up believing people only said I love you in the movies. Never in real life.
            Three days ago a man said those words to me. Well, honestly, with Facebook lots of men say those words to me. But they are meaningless. Those men don’t know me. I feel they are abusing those three sacred words. Cheapening them. But I’d known this man for a while. We msg’ed and video chatted daily. He was beginning to know me, and I, him.
            Why didn’t my family ever use the word “love?” I watched their interactions. I saw instances of affection. Mother, for example, would make sweet baby-talk coos to the latest baby. (I am the oldest of eight so it seemed there always was a “latest” baby). I watched closely. No doubt my eyes  narrowed suspiciously as I looked on. What I saw was mainly what I didn’t see. I saw no kisses and no hugs.
            I usually read copiously but now I read with purpose. I was searching for definitions of love.  I didn’t know what it was. So now, every time I read the words: “love is…” I alerted like hunting dog catching a scent. I collected these meanings. Eventually I had a list. Love is trust. Love is unconditional. Love is kind. Love is generous. Love is…then I’d meet a boy, start going out, and I might become infatuated. Unable to think of anyone or anything else. But I was leery of this dizzy, obsessed feeling. I knew it wasn’t real, lasting, deep, love. So I dated, I married, but never really fell in love. Then I met my third husband. And there was no mistake. This was love. His looks, his smell, the way he held me, made love to me…that lasted for twenty fabulous, loving years. Then he died and I believed my love life was over…till a few months ago. One day I realized I had no man-love in my life and now I wanted it.
            I get a lot of messages from various men, from all over the world, on Facebook. I began to respond to a few of those messages and I began to date, cyber-style. I’d had something like five flings, but no “love me forever” experiences. It dawned on me that this search for a loving man could take some effort. I thought about that, recalled my many good years with my husband, and decided yes, I wanted that again, and I was willing to go to great lengths to get it. I was willing to work to find love. The old adage: "You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find the prince," kept me going. The search part of this quest was not fun. But necessary. Frog kissing resumed. 
I began to have very strong feelings for this one man. Intense infatuation for sure, but more. Deeper. Then differences we held politically and religiously began to worry me. We each were pretty far out–only in different fields. Right field, left field. Were these differences going to come between us in the future? I decided they would. Filled with sorrow at having to give up this wonderful, smart, witty, creative, sexy man, nevertheless, I felt it was a painful necessity. Just as I raised my finger to begin a farewell message, literally, no kidding, a shaft of light poured through me. This was followed by an immense shard of pain, as if a a machete had sliced through me, severing me in half. I froze. This was how I'd feel—all the time—if this man was not in my life. I could not end our relationship. Then I experienced these words: "Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?" I exhaled (I'd been holding my breath for quite some time). I'd rather be happy. So what if we voted differently. So what if we adhered to different religious teachings. There really was only one important religious teaching anyway and that is: Love is all there is. I lowered my finger. No breaking up. 
 It was a Saturday morning, I think. I’d just ended it with boyfriend number five and even though he’d morphed into a toxic person, I had a pang over giving him up. But no, I was not going to settle. A while later that same day, I went on Facebook. Read funny posts, read serious posts, when an ad popped up: “Join Facebook Dating now.” I thought, “What have I got to lose?” So I joined. Minutes later I was messaged. A man on Facebook Dating. I checked his profile. He was almost exactly my age—a relief after sparring with numerous thirty, forty, fifty and sixty year-olds. He was close by, in a US state near Northwestern Ontario. And under his picture he’d written his motto as “Never give up.” That’s my motto. He went further to say that he believed he should be all that he could be. He saw himself, even at his age, as a work in progress. Here was an “old person,” like me, still believing he had more growth in him, more worlds to conquer. More to achieve, like me. His life wasn’t nearly over, it was ongoing. I messaged him immediately. We messaged extensively. Everything we learned about each other only enchanted us more. Then the momentous day. October 18, 2019, and I read those magical, powerful words. He’d written: “I love you.” Joy flooded me. He loved me! I loved him, too, and now I could say it. I typed: “I love you too.”
            From that day on I was changed. I felt different. I felt as though a golden aura surrounded me, engulfed me toes to head. As I moved, it moved. Within this golden oval of light I was protected. This man’s love meant to me: “You are forever protected.” I'd found my forever love.
            I added another definition to my list: Love is…protection. And, love is forever.

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