Things I believed in when I was young: unicorns, super powers (okay…I may still kind of be hanging on to that one…), Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, the Chupacabra, and happily ever after. As I grew up, I wondered if I would ever be able to attain the fabled ideal – true love. I, by inherent design, was/am a skeptic, not a romantic. The world we live in really doesn’t help the case for real love.
Love can be harsh. Most of the time it’s confusing. A lot of the time, love hurts, like really hurts. The big question is that if love is the potential pinnacle of sucktitude, why do we even try? What’s the point of putting ourselves on the line, making ourselves vulnerable for what could be our eventual downfall? What the heck IS real, true love? Does it even exist or has it gone extinct like dinosaurs or purple leisure suits?
Last Saturday night, my husband and I rushed to a hospital in Appleton, Wisconsin. We were told his grandfather didn’t have much time left on this earth. If we wanted to say our goodbyes, we needed to do it asap. When we got there, the room was full of family visiting. True to our usual form, there were many funny stories and sarcastic one-liners being thrown around. Grandpa was sleeping and fitfully so. His breathing was labored and his color was drained. There, hanging on to his left hand, was Grandma. I stood on the periphery of the room mainly observing while throwing in a random comment here and there. What I observed, touched my heart so greatly.
While conversation floated around her, Grandma gently stroked Grandpa’s hand and softly placed kisses on top of his knuckles. Every now and again, she would smooth his white, whispy hair. The silent tears she wiped away made a few slip from my own eyes.
At one point, my sister-in-law commented how pretty Grandma looked. Her hair was curled and she had a sweet, pink shirt on. Grandma replied, “I wore pink because this is Ike’s favorite color on me.” Then she went back to touching the back of his hand and whispering to him now and again.
That moment has been playing around in the back of my mind for the past few days. Especially now that Grandpa has passed on. In that moment, I saw the greatest example of real, true love. Love isn’t grand gestures and pricey gifts. It isn’t the perfect words or always doing the right thing. It’s holding someone’s hand when they may not even know we’re there. It’s being by someone’s side as long as we can no matter how tired, or scared, or heartbroken we may be. It’s all of the little things that add up to something great.
Love is the incentive to wake in the morning. Love is what helps us laugh when what we really want to do is cry. Love keeps us going when all we want to do is quit. Love is the smile we need. Love is the squeeze of an aged hand to let us know how special we are. Love is a crinkled smile. Real, true love goes beyond any romantic ideal. It’s real. It’s scary. Sometimes, it hurts. Like really, really hurts. But, it’s so worth it. If I can ever attain the smallest fraction of the love Grandpa and Grandma shared, my life will be a success.
So, if I ever start to question or get cranky or discouraged or try to hold any of my relationships to some impossible ideal, I will remind myself of one thing:
Love is a pink shirt.
“Pink Sweater and Blue Clothesline” – Tomie DePaola