What Is Love?

By Bob Litton

To tell you the truth, I don’t know what love is in my own life.  What I have experienced in the past, and at times called “love”, I now look back on as some lesser emotion — like adolescent dependency or lust.

However, I have seen what I considered to be love — genuine love — in others’ lives.  In one instance, it was a little old lady who came to my brother’s carpet store to buy carpet to replace the worn-out floor covering in her living room.  Her husband had died a few months before.  When she started talking about how his cigarette ashes had dropped down on the carpet beside his easy chair, she choked up and, in a voice almost gasping for words, said, “He didn’t do it on purpose.  He didn’t know those ashes were spotting the carpet.”

Another time, I was watching a 60 Minutes segment about thalidomide children.  One of the victims, now a mature woman, had married and had two sons.  She had only stubs for legs. Like the two other thalidomide victims featured during the segment, she didn’t feel sorry for herself but seemed very well-adjusted and cheerful.

The most striking thing about her, however, was the way she met her husband.  She had been fitted with artificial legs and most of the time did quite well on them; but one time, when she was walking down a sidewalk, she fell and couldn’t get up.  A man came along and helped her get back on her legs.  Subsequently he became her husband.

Both of that woman’s sons loved her, and her husband loved her.  There was a difference, however, in that the boys had grown up knowing her as their only mother; so, in a sense, they had no choice but to love her.  Her husband, on the other hand, had had a choice, unless you hold that romantic love is inevitable and unavoidable.

Alpine Avalanche, February 15, 1996

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