February is the month of LOVE. “All you need is LOVE.” Love is a much bandied word these days. “Standing on the side of Love.” But it was not a word that I heard much growing up. In fact, it was never said, but always understood. Of course my parents loved me. But there was not the “I love you” as we went to bed, or at the end of telephone conversations. It would be years before I said “I love you” to my mother—who teared up and said “I love you, too’ or my father who said “harrumph”. But I was into my 40s by then, and I said these words for myself as much as for them.
Saying “I love you” was, for me, like hugs: not something I grew up with, but something that I made a conscious decision to do—as a young adult. I tucked my daughter into bed every night with an “I love you” and later (when she moved away) finished our phone conversations with an “I love you.” She has passed that one to her sons. So now, I can easily express this sentiment to my grandsons as I say goodbye, or I get the shortened version “love you” be-fore they hang up on me.
Over the years, I’ve struggled with that three-word sentence. When was it ok to say to a new lover? And when was it ok to say? Years ago, it was a pre-cious commodity. These days, I use those words with close friends and fam-ily. The beauty of that simple sentence conveys the importance that their friendship means to me.
“Love is a many splendored thing.” There is an early love of your family, of your mother, father, and siblings. There might be the love of a constant ani-mal companion. As we grow older, it may become the erotic love of a treas-ured person. Closely aligned with lust and infatuation, it may grow into a commitment, or it may wither on the vine. There is the all consuming love of your children (if you have them). There is the love of our friends. There is the love of our constant companions—pets of all kinds.
All of these contribute to our mental well being and health. A new love can make us see things in a brighter way, an old love can wrap us in warm blan-kets of trust and memories. A love can be comforting, like the support of friends and family, or worrying, as when a lover, a child, or a friend is going through difficult times.
But in the end, I do think that love is still one of the most magical things that I will ever experience, and learning to love unconditionally is one of the most important skills in life that I have struggled with. Like most skills, we need to practice it, constantly perfecting our delivery and acceptance. With luck we get better with that practice. In the end, I feel that my giving of love is often times better than receiving it. And the older I get, I think “it’s something that we all need more of!”
P.S. Thanks to all the musicians whom I have plagiarized!