©2011 By Bob Litton
“….Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.”
— from “Birches” by Robert Frost
I know Valentine’s Day is still nearly two weeks away, but I want to talk about Love. Besides, my ol’ flame’s birthday is February 9th, so I’m not getting all that much ahead of myself.
You might legitimately question, “What does a taciturn old bachelor know about Love?”
Just as much anyway as a person stranded in the desert can better describe the cause and effects of shade or the consistency and taste of water than someone for whom those elements are so common as to be contemptible. The blind man, we all should know by now, both appreciates the advantages of vision more and develops other senses to a more heightened state than the man who sees.
I’ll never forget the simple talk on Love given at the 1980 Grandfalls-Royalty Chamber banquet by some preacher from Abilene, I believe. Don’t misunderstand: It wasn’t a sermon, nor was it one of those joke-a-thon talks common to chamber of commerce banquets. It was just a simple little essay on how the modern world militates against Love—and thereby against lovers. Oh, there was some humor, of course, but it was no more and no less than the humor natural to life itself. It was part of the substance, not the form.
He pointed out that homes no longer have parlors, those little rooms across the hall from the livingroom proper, rooms too small for anything but tête-à-têtes. Many car designers, likewise, have sabotaged Love by substituting bucket seats for the old full-length seats. And then there’s modern popular music—music too loud for softly murmured words and too spasmodic for close dancing. It’s enough to make Cupid dump his quiver.
That Chamber talk was the only one the sense of which I’ve retained.
You know, I’m all the time noting these silver and golden wedding anniversaries in the daily papers. Every once in a while, there will be a special write-up about a couple who are unusual in some way. A few months ago, for instance, I saw a photo in the paper of an elderly black couple. They looked elderly, all right, but they didn’t look 92 and 95, which is what the article said they were. They said they had been married 70 odd years and never had a quarrel. I wondered if they had ever spoken to each other.
My ol’ flame and I never quarreled either; we just called it quits. Several times. But we were only 18, 19 and then 20 years old, too. As I grew older and reflected on the experience, I thought many a time that maybe we would have made it if we had been mature enough for what I call creative quarreling. The first step is to recognize that one or both of you are emotionally upset about something the other has or has not done. The second step is to declare from the start that neither of you is going to walk away in a pout and not speak to the other. Anger okay, pouting no. And the third step, probably the hardest, is to talk it out, realizing that you might come out of the discussion looking selfish or childish, but not nearly so selfish or childish as you will if you just pout.
Ol’ flame and I couldn’t do that.
I think the most important nutrient of Love is the desire to see one’s loved one fulfill their potential to the utmost, to be all they can be and want to be in their better self. That seems easy on the surface, but often—if not in fact most of the time—our loved ones don’t know themselves what their better selves are or what they want to do. Conversely, we sometimes impose our own expectations of what a person should aspire to upon them. And worse yet, many a person is willing to sacrifice their own self-image to be whatever their loved one desires them to be. As Elvis Presley’s old song put it, “Any way you want me, that’s how I will be.” The number of stories and plays based upon the theme of the transmuting of the loved one into something not necessarily bad but against their nature is legion. G.B. Shaw’s “Pygmalion”, rendered musically as “My Fair Lady”, is a good example.
It does in fact take a lot of patience to wait for a person to find themselves, to be constantly encouraging them to find themselves on their own. “I’ll encourage you to be the best artist you can be, the best CPA you can be, the best athlete you can be, but I’m not going to tell you which to be! Only you can decide that.” (A career, by the way, is only one form of self-fulfillment; there are others, the most difficult perhaps simply being the best person one can be.)
That was another problem for ol’ flame and me. It was one, however, for which we did not blame each other. She put it most succinctly: “We met too soon.”
— The Monahans News
February 3, 1983