Saturday, June 25, 2005

Love is Something You Do, Not Feel

Our Mother, just like most other human beings on earth, has her share of faults; there are times when I wish she was a much better mother than she had been. Yet, in one area, she is a much better mother than any I have yet come across, if not the best. It was she that taught me the true nature of "what men call 'love'", even if she herself did not always remember. And knowing that nature, even if I myself do not always remember, helped me to find the best woman for my wife.

For one thing, unlike other mothers, Mom had always talked to us about how to treat a girl, how to identify the girl one wants, how to treat a girl one wants, what to do when one gets the girl one wants, and how to treat a girl when you aren't sure one still wants the girl—all beginning at the tender age of six. Mom would always speak from experience, never having read any how-to books on love or any of that; this is probably why during those times she would talk to us we didn't particularly trust her judgment. She bungled up turning down men who courted her, for instance, taking a Bible verse out of context. But for as long as I can remember, there was the advice: "Always be a gentleman" "Always give the girl the benefit of the doubt" "If she behaves so, she doesn't love you" "If she behaves so, then she's attracted to you" "If she does this, then it's probably love" "If you love her, then do this..."—all given long before any kind of desire or attraction to the opposite sex. When we would watch a romantic movie when I was just eight years old, she would patiently explain her take on the dynamics of the relationship in the same way my Dad would explain philosophical concepts. Thanks to her, the full glory of emphathy was mine when I first watched Tchaikowsky's Swan Lake in animated form at age 10; thanks to her, I understood jealousy, suspicion, and duty in many a Shakespearean play while I was barely in my teens.

It was my twin brother who believed the nonsense propagated by other mothers, that one can be too young to think about love. He now feels that he can never feel capable enough to find love in a woman; he never listened to our Mom on those ocassions, thinking he had plenty of time later. He would later let his 21st birthday come and go before thinking that now he can think about "adult" love (though, strangely, he always believed that he first fell in love as an eight year old boy). My other brother, now married and with a beautiful daughter (the niece I featured formerly) also listened to my mother's talks. It is this listening which I credit to his success in finding the girl he will love forever back when he was in his last year in elementary school, and loving only her until they were married more than a decade later; all this inspite of his faults and being tempted along the way. My twin, inspite of the nobility he tried to cultivate in his character, had made it a habit not to learn too much about insights gained from even failed relationships (first manifested when he would not listen to Mom as a child); as a result, his only foray into courtship turned so ugly it ended a lot of friendships and fostered a lot of bitterness in some individuals that survive to this day.

I am sure that I have my own faults, and I never would have found my wife if it hadn't been for the decades of preparation and insight my Mom gave me. Other mothers will steep their children in music or the arts in the hopes of having an accomplished musician or artist in the family; yet would think that it was improper to teach a kid about love or sex. How many relationships have failed because young people do not know enough, for instance, to spot the genuine from the not? How many who are in "successful" relationships live in various stages of distress, hurt, jealousy and pain, because they never learned how to behave in a relationship? How many are hurting, because they were never taught that love is not love without fidelity, loyalty, kindness and discipline? How many do not know the power of sex, and either underestimate it or overestimate it, to their detriment? Even when we didn't want to hear it, Mom taught us all that...

... and I'm glad I listened. Of all the joys in my mortal life right now, the chief and greatest is the wonderful woman that God gave me as a wife... and I wouldn't have recognized her if, years ago, my Mom thought it was improper to tell a young boy about a women and how to think and behave to preserve one's personal honor.

For that is, in the end, what love really is about—not the feelings and passions that one is sure to have, but how to act and what to do when in the throes of those feelings and passions. I sometimes do not remember, but I do not forget.