It seems we are all looking for love at one time or another. I keep finding it in places I never thought it would appear. While I have been passionately in love before, that’s not what I am talking about. I am talking about observing unexpected expressions of love between two other people.
My late father was a tough man. A Korean War vet, I think he told me he loved me three times in my life. Picture Clint Eastwood in “Grand Torino.” While I saw my mother care for and love him throughout his life, times that included caretaking for him in his last years. I always expected that from her, given her personality. A few months ago however, my mother told me how as a very poor child in the 1940s, she really wanted a doll from a catalogue, which her mother always said was coming in the mail, a doll she never really ordered because there was no way she could afford it. She waited for that doll everyday, she told me. Last month, my mother shared that my man’s man of a father bought her that doll as a surprise present when they were dating. That was unexpected love.
During the early fall when the leaves start to change in the Colorado high country, I spent the day with my aunt and uncle for the first time in many years, driving around the Rockies. My aunt has progressively fallen prey to Alzheimer’s disease, to an extent I do not think I was really aware of until that trip. I saw her husband, a man that, like my father, was a “tough guy” from the Greatest Generation, care for his ailing wife every moment of the day. He comforted her; he reassured her and saw she ate properly and was warm. He kept his composure in moments that would have left other people in tears or yelling in anger. His life is now watching over her 24 hours a day. While a good man, I’d never seen his tender side. I never thought I’d see that from him. That was unexpected love.
Finally, the most powerful moment when I saw unexpected love between two people is something I’ve carried with me everyday since. When my grandfather was dying at age 94, he was placed in nursing care for a week before being sent home to live out his final days. My grandmother, his wife of over 70 years, and him had lived together secluded in rural New Mexico for the last 30 years. Romantic? No. I remember them as the two people who when we were creating a card to commemorate their 65th wedding anniversary, no one could find a photograph of the two of them together. They never seemed affectionate. Yet, after this week apart, unable to see more than three feet in front of their weary, aged eyes, when they finally saw each other, as my aunt guided them, they both reached out their hands and grabbed each other’s faces and wept with smiles from ear to ear. That was unexpected love. Look for love — look for the unexpected. It can change your life.
Published February 13, 2013