No Greater Gift

Digital illo: The Greatest GiftLove is the answer. Not romance, not lust, not preferential treatment; love. Real, tangible, spoken and expressed with clockwork regularity and with kindness and clarity. The sort of love that fills your car’s gas tank before you leave for work and gives you snow tires for an anniversary gift, that calls Tech Support and sits around on hold for forty minutes before the ninety-minute-long session of troubleshooting to fix your confounded computer’s latest case of the hiccups. The sort of love that silently reaches over and holds your hand when there are no possible words for the occasion, good or bad.

Love is forgetful and fretful, persistent to the point of irritating, deaf in one ear and hard of hearing in the other, and demands, without realizing it, a high percentage of return—and all of this is absolutely nothing in exchange for the comfort, companionship, reverence, and acceptance received before any of these minor shortcomings are called into account. This kind of love transcends human norms so far that I can only assume it derives from some larger, more stable and powerful force than our own desires and whims. Love is what makes me sorrowful for the sorrows of a kindred soul, joyful in her joys, and comforted by a deep sense of her presence when she’s absent.

Love is, too, the act of sending a hand-written note, in this age of technology, that says “I’m thinking of you” and carries with it great personal weight in and between the lines. My second mother, the one I acquired so fortuitously and blessedly through marrying her son, sent just such a note recently. It wasn’t long. It didn’t cover a lot of ground. It said little that she doesn’t say to us in our regular phone conversations. But it was so sweet, so heartfelt and unexpected, that it brought happy tears to my eyes and I was flooded with a renewed sense of how deeply glad I am to be immersed in such love. And it reminded me that I will be all the more deeply blessed if I can find ways to pass along such love, no matter how small or simple those ways might seem at the time, to all of the other people I possibly can, for as long as I possibly can. Amazing how these things can multiply. That, of course, is one of the reasons that love, in all its forms, is such a powerful gift.Digital illo: The Amazing Multiplier

9 thoughts on “No Greater Gift

  1. That was so beautiful! I long for that kind of love, I think I have something close with my lady friends but I so want that kind of love from a man, one that I can love that way in return. I love a man now but he only loves me half way… a half way kind of love is better than none, I suppose but it could be so much more… But your piece was so well written and so lovely, thank you and I am so happy for you that you have that love… so wonderful.


    • I must disagree, Michelle: I think only full-on, committed love is worthwhile in the long run. I was famously, if not notoriously, unwilling during all my single years for refusing to even go on a second date with anyone (unless you count going out with “pals” as dates, of course!) if they didn’t seem seriously excellent by my ridiculously high standards. As you’d guess, that means that I had, over the years, only two boyfriends who lasted as long as a very few months each, a modest number of first-dates, and a whole lot of time spent going out (or staying in) alone.

      But rather than being frustrating or lonely, I found that such time helped me to focus on what was, and wasn’t, important to me in companions (male *or* female). My standards, if anything, got more and more exacting. I really pretty much decided that my grandpa, for all of his decidedly unromantic old carpenter/farmer characteristics, got one thing absolutely right, his theory of what’s mandatory in a relationship, and on Gramps’s theory I built my own simplification, i.e.: Silly sounding, but at its core, it means I was looking for someone I’d feel I needed to be my best to be worthy of, yet at the same time one who viewed and treated me with the same respect, reverence, and admiration.

      I saw very few people who came anywhere close to ‘ticking all of the boxes’ in that regard, and most of them I knew right off the bat were better designed as friends and other kinds of companions for me than any kind of lover. That, in turn, made me think hard that if I were going to be alone a fair amount, if not single for my entire life, I had jolly well better be building a self and a life that I could love. So I *did* work on that. I found greater fulfillment in practicing my art and my writing, in going on pleasurable outings by myself for photoshoots, or long strolls in beautiful parks, or dinners out where none of my casual friends were interested in going, or at an art museum that interested me at the moment, or the like. Between that and work, there wasn’t much time to be moping around wishing for anything I *didn’t* have. The idea of being single forever became a lot less unpleasant, even comfortable.

      Now, in the meantime, I’ll admit to you right now, I never stopped sending out a little mantra to the universe, something along the lines of “if there *IS* Somebody out there for *me*, bless him [or her, if that had been one’s leaning] with every good thing, and bring us together at just the right time. (Pretty please.) If there *isn’t* such a person for me, make me truly content as I am.” 😉 And not only did the universe present me with exactly the Somebody I imagined, it was somebody else who had been going through a nearly identical process of reluctant dating, reevaluation, and finding his own centered happiness in his single life. Neither of us expected in the remotest way to come together as we did, he a twice-divorced 45 year old and I a never-married 35 year old, who had worked in next-door buildings at the university for some years and met at a number of faculty events on a very casual and not-especially notable basis before the fateful occasion when he took particular notice of me, invited me on our first date (which I even thought was just a collegial kindness since we were working together on a project), and there it was. True Love. As many times as I’d crossed paths with him and thought him a fine and wonderful person, I’d never remotely fantasized that he might be that guy. True Love.

      After years of wondering and wandering, we had that first date on a post-Thanksgiving weekend, I moved into his house right after Christmas, and we were married at the beginning of the next July, and 2 decades later we’re still a coupla silly newlyweds, surprised and delighted to have found each other at just the right time. And we both know that, though we’re infinitely glad it worked out this way, we had both headed on paths that would have been happy ones for each of us long term had we *not* managed to converge as we did.

      The man you admire now might be a great friend and even companion for the time being, but you deserve the whole of Somebody’s attention and love, respect and commitment, too, and if that Somebody is yourself, may it be a tremendously rich and fulfilling journey, and if it turns out to be Somebody else, may you find as surprisingly great joy as I have with Richard. It has *unquestionably* been worth the work and the wait.

      Meanwhile, I send you the hugs and love of a genuinely admiring friend!

      • That was so lovely, Kathryn, thank you so much. I was married for 20 years, had a boy friend for 10 and have been alone, except for the last few months for 7 years and basically I am ok by myself, I have a group of women writer friends and lots of children and grandchildren so I am surrounded with love but still crave that one special love, I keep hoping this man gets his head and heart together but if he doesn’t, I’ll be ok, its just that I am getting older, I’m 60 now and it is hard to find someone my age… but I will keep faith and maybe it will still happen, thanks again for all your kindness. Michelle

  2. This brought to mind something that happened with one of my sisters. Many years ago, my mother was still healthy, and living independently, and she lived in the same city in Florida as my sister lived at the time. My sister was/is very computer savvy, and she made an entire set of colorful hand-made note cards for my Mom, complete with hand-made decorated envelopes.

    Eventually my mother came to live with me in Texas, and over time she became quite ill and then passed away in 2009. While going through some of her personal belongings, I came across what remained of the hand-made note cards and envelopes, and tucked them away for future use. You probably already know where this is headed …. a few years later, I sent my sister a note to let her know I was thinking of her, and used one of the note cards she had made for our mother years earlier. When she received it, she immediately picked up the phone and called me, practically in tears. She had a story to share.

    Turns out that when she made the note cards for my mom, her special intention was that my mother would use the cards to write to me, since my mother and I exchanged mail on a regular basis during those years she lived in Florida and I lived in Texas. She had deliberately chosen colorful butterflies and flowers as the theme for the cards, knowing how much I enjoy butterflies. She had hoped that when I received the note cards from my mom, that it might bring me a bit of cheer. Even though my sister was notorious for never picking up a pen herself to write a note, she had taken the time to make it easier for my mother to share a little cheer, by making those note cards for my mom. And now, years later, it was her that was on the receiving end of her good deed, when she received my note in the mail.

    I still have a few of those note cards, and I’m saving them each, one by one, for my sister. About twice a year now I surprise her with one, and each and every time, the same thing happens. The moment she finds one in the mailbox, she calls me, and we spend time reminiscing and chatting. Her act of kindness from several years ago is still sending out waves of happiness. 🙂

    • That is truly beautiful! Yes, love comes in so many unexpected and often, tiny moments and gestures. Sometimes, like this, the smaller and less predictable they are, the better they shine. What a sweet, sweet connection this marvelous butterfly-filled floral border makes between you three, and now *I* even feel I have been wonderfully touched by it too! ❤ ❤ ❤

  3. What a beautiful post. I read ntexas99 reply too. Love is so interesting. Coming from many places. You’ve sparked some big thoughts today. Thank you! Have a wonderful weekend.

    • It shines in your work. Your technical expertise is valuable, but I really think that the way you capture your affection, admiration, and love for your subjects and tell the kindest form of truth about them is what gives them more luminous and potent beauty as real artworks.

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