I remember as a teen hearing the line from the movie Love Story (a film based on the novel by Erich Segal) “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” and wondering if that were true. It sounded so beautiful then, but I eventually learned that apologizing is part of the process that keeps love alive; it helps to acknowledge that you are aware of the other person’s feelings. Then there are those love songs that taught me about love. The Association sang, “You don’t know how many times I’ve wished that I could mold into someone who could cherish me as much as I cherish you” and I learned that love was sometimes unrequited. The Four Seasons sang, “Dawn go away, I’m no good for you” and I realized that love can mean saying goodbye. When The Police sang, “Every breath you take, every move you make…I’ll be watching you” I learned that love can be controlling and frightening. As I grew older, I started to appreciate songs that taught me about the love between a parent and a child: “Daddy’s Little Girl” (“you’re everything nice”), “Butterfly Kisses” (“Oh with all that I’ve done wrong I must have done something right to deserve her love”) and “Wind Beneath My Wings” (“I can fly higher than an eagle, for you are the wind beneath my wings”).
We learn about love in so many ways and I believe that Valentine’s Day, a day set aside to think about love of all kinds — love of self, love of friends, pets, country, food, nature, travel, movies, books – is just wonderful. Romantic love is just one kind of love, so no matter where you are or what you are doing, I hope you use the day to connect with someone or something you love.
In that spirit, I am connecting with a guest writer for my blog. She is a high school English teacher, she is earning her MA in Theater Education and she is my daughter. She is writing about what she learned about love from my parents. I learned it from them too. In the spirit of this being a psychological blog, it means we learn through social learning – we learn from watching others. We think about the rewards those we are observing receive by performing certain actions and we decide if we want to imitate those actions in the hope of gaining the same rewards. I know their love was special. I hope it will inspire you as well.
“How I Learned About Love” by Amanda Urban
“Just don’t cry, okay Millie?” were the last words that my grandfather said to my grandmother before he died. He was 88 years old. In his final moments, he walked from the bedroom to the hallway that was filled with pictures of his family. My grandmother helped him walk down the hall because he was having trouble using the new walker that the doctors gave him the week before when he started complaining about back pain (that probably hurt much more than his calm, World War II soldier demeanor ever let on). He lost his footing, in turn pushing the walker against the wall and squeezing my grandmother’s hand that was holding on to the walker along with his. Tears began to form in my grandmother’s eyes from the pain in her hand. “Don’t cry Millie,” my grandfather said. And he fell to the floor. My grandmother tried to shake him awake, “Jerry? I’m going to call 911, okay Jerry?” His eyes opened, he nodded, and he said, “Just don’t cry, okay Millie?” And then he was gone.
I, along with the rest of my family, like to believe that my grandfather wasn’t telling my grandmother not to cry about her hand; he was telling her not to cry after he was gone. He was telling her she would be okay without him. He was telling her that he loved her more than anything, and that he wanted her to be happy even though he wouldn’t be with her anymore.
I believe in true love. And I believe in it because of the love that my grandparents shared. It was clear from the words he chose to say in his last breath that my grandfather cared deeply for my grandmother, that her wellbeing and her happiness far outweighed his own.
My belief in true love does not just stem from his beautifully romantic final moments, but rather from the small, routine acts of love that they displayed for one another every day for 63 years. My belief in true love comes from my grandmother devotedly cooking them dinner every single day and from my grandfather dutifully making a salad every single night. It comes from when my grandmother would scream “JERRRRRRYYYYY!! What are you?! Stupid?!” and my grandfather would sit patiently and absorb her anger until it was done. It comes from the way that my grandmother always reflected on what a good man he was and how lucky she was to have him. It comes from watching my grandfather crack chestnuts open after Christmas dinner and pass them to my grandmother without ever being asked. It comes from their ability to tell stories together, and know exactly what the other was going to say. It comes from the quiet comfort they had as they sat next to each other watching Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. It comes from the palpable joy they shared at each stage of their life–going on dates, getting married, raising their daughters, and watching their grandchildren grow.
I once heard that true love is not Romeo and Juliet, it is the grandmothers and grandfathers who stay together for sixty or more years of marriage. I believe that Romeo and Juliet loved each other and that their love story that spanned all of three days was enchanting, but I believe more in my grandparents, who made it through 22, 925 days of marriage. I believe that love is patient, and love is kind, and love is sometimes yelling “JERRRRRRYYYYY!!”. I believe that my grandfather is watching over me. And I believe that one day, I will find a love as beautiful as the love my grandparents had for each other.
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