It was if the hand of God came down and smacked the selfish stupidity right out of me. How could I have lived half a lifetime and have been so blind? The endless search for romantic love that so many of us find elusive, is generally right in front of our face or maybe even in the mirror we face.
He talked so lovingly about his wife. With each tender word he speaks, a tear wells up in my eyes, the lump in my throat gets a bit bigger, and the longing in my heart aches more.
His wife no longer recognizes him he says. The debilitating disease is worsening, slowly claiming her memory and disconnecting her from reality. But he is there for her, devoted, loving, caring and selfless. Alzheimer is a thief, robbing them both of precious memories. But her disease is harder on him, I am sure.
The woman he loves is still somewhere inside an emptying shell. He loves her more than the day they met, he tells us. His smile is warm and his eyes glisten, maybe moistening with a bit of his own tears. He looks happy despite his pain, he feels gratitude for what he has rather than anger for what he is losing. She no longer knows who I am, he tells us, but he feels blessed that he can care for her now when she needs him the most.
He has just come from visiting his wife in a nursing facility. She no doubt was ambivalent to the company of this stranger, but his love endures. There are remnants of her and, although the disease is slowly destroying her mind, it could never destroy his love. The room was silent as we listened to him speak. It was almost incomprehensible to me, this selfless love of which he speaks.
Why can’t someone love me this way I think. What is the secret to this infallible connection that endures all things?
I begin to cry deep, silent sobs of empathy, regret and perhaps some envy. This inescapable and intoxicating love. The painful and unquenchable longing of my heart that will not be quieted. It will not relent; it will not be sated.
There is, of course, deep love for my family, devoted love for my friends, unconditional love for my child, abiding love for my God. But there is a deep desire for romantic love – for a life partner and soul mate.
The old man is across the room, and I make my way over to him. I wipe away the tears still streaming from my eyes. He greets me with a warm smile and I begin the sentimental dribble. ” I was so touched by your story… I am sorry to hear about your wife… She’s so lucky to have a husband like you!” The old man smiles politely.
“I wish someone would love me that much,” I say, consumed and blinded by self-pity. There is an odd expression on his face. He says nothing. He places his lips to my forehead and gives me a gentle kiss.
I am not a mile away from where I waved goodbye to the old man, when I am struck with a revelation like a bolt of lightning. I am hit with a life-changing, eye-opening, mind-blowing epiphany. This realization makes me feel both foolish and enlightened. I am ashamed at the way I gushed with the old man and am humbled by his gentle patience with me. What must he think? Will there be a chance for redemption?
Two weeks go by before I see him again. He’s standing in the church annex by himself and smiles when he sees me coming his way.
I am sheepish but determined. “I got it wrong, didn’t I?” He knows what I am talking about, and his face illuminates as he allows me to continue. “It’s not about being loved that much.” The old man knows wisdom has been revealed. “You’re the lucky one.” Bingo! Our eyes connect and his expression softens.
Love is no longer a puzzle or a mystery that I cannot explain. “You are the lucky one to love someone so much.” Now it is his turn to cry, and he does.
“I knew you’d get it,” he says as he plants another comforting kiss on my forehead.
I’ve always known that love was the most powerful force in the universe, but now I understand why.