What Is Love?

I was looking forward to seeing my old friend again. We don’t see each other as much anymore. He’s getting up there in years, his aches and pains prohibiting him from traveling like he used to, though secretly I think he’s happy that people come to him now and their meetings are now on his terms. He’s still in Chicago, at least that’s where he says his heart is, and where his soul will rest.

He poured me our favourite – Macallan 18 neat – as we settled down on plush, deep red chairs on an ornate Persian rug at our feet next to a warm fireplace. His trusty old hunting dog lay snoring at our feet. (I thought of Taylor, and Foster and Jack, before him.) We were transported in time back to the 1880’s amidst the crackle of the fire, with no technology anywhere within proximity, only the warmth of good company keeping time.

“Do you know what love is?” He hits me right between the eyes with his pointed fingers resting onto his seat. He didn’t waste any time with hellos.

I thought of responding in my favourite Forest Gump voice, “I am not a smart man, but I know what love is.” I also thought of singing Haddaway. However, I didn’t do either, instead staring at his bony fingers.

“Did you know that I traveled to California once?”

Um, way to push me onto the precipice and pull the wool from right under me, changing the subject. “What does that have to do with love?” I retorted.

“It has everything to do with love.

The truth is everyone has different definitions for love, very personal definitions. There’s the dictionary definition – ‘an intense feeling of deep affection’ and ‘feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to (someone)’ – but they only scratch the surface. Different people have different words for what love means. They have different images of what love looks like. They have different experiences for what love feels like. Who am I or who are you to tell them their definition of love is wrong? Who are we to say we are right?”

My buddy sometimes gets on a roll and loves to hear the sound of his voice, but in this instance he was making a whole lot of sense. Though his voice was alive, he seemed a little old for the first time in his life.

“Some people want a life of passion with the person they love and all that comes with it, the good and the bad; they won’t settle for anything less. Some people want to spend the rest of their lives with their best friend, again, with all that comes with it, the good and the bad. Some people want both. On the other hand, there are people who just don’t want to be alone, and their idea of love will be markedly different than others. Who are we to judge? Who are we to say one is better than the other?”

“What does love mean for you?” I asked.

“Glad you asked. I wanted everything. I was willing to spend the rest of my days alone than be with the wrong person. In my mind, I was only robbing them of the person they were supposed to be with, succumbing to my own selfishness, insecurity and loneliness. It wasn’t fair to them. So I decided that being alone was better than being with the wrong person. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to be with the wrong person.

So that’s when I figured out one of the keys to love. I knew what love meant to me. Even if I could not see her face, I knew what she looked like, what she would be like. I figured out at that very moment that my soulmate would be someone who believes in love the way I believe in love. And it was not my place to judge another for their definition of love. So I went through life trying to find the person who defined love the way that I did.

That was big for me.”

My Macallan 18 tasted really good.

And he was fidgeting in his chair, clearly in pain. I didn’t acknowledge it but I knew he was always in pain. He never made excuses but he complained a lot. I didn’t want to get him started so I let him continue.

“What do you believe in?” I pressed, feeling that he had not answered the question.

“I’ll get to it.

On one magical night in Tiburon, which is located on a slice of paradise in Northern California outside San Francisco, I took the love of my life for a birthday dinner. We went to the Caprice which sits on the water, our table overlooked the bay with a view of San Francisco in lights on one side and Tiburon with its hills lit on the other. Magical only scratched the surface of our view and our time together than night. The staff I’ll never forget was so friendly and accommodating and knowledgeable. The place had an old world European feel to it, with strong, simple furniture and soft lighting. While the restaurant was full, we felt like the only ones there. It was not lost on me then or even now in memory of that night, that could have had something to do with my date, my love, the birthday girl. For appetizers, we tried the waiter-recommended beets with goat cheese, which was light, refreshing, colorful and so alive with flavor. For dinner she had the seared scallops and I ordered the saffron risotto, two of the best dishes we’d ever had. The risotto was hands down the best I’d ever had. A peach cobbler with ice cream and ‘happy birthday’ written in chocolate finished our meal.”

I interrupted “Wow, you remember a lot from a dinner you had a long time ago!”

“One never forgets the magical nights. They leave an imprint upon your heart, your mind and your soul. That was one of those nights you never forget. And you take those memories of magic with you wherever you go and whenever you are and whatever you are doing, however you are doing it.”

He always had a way with words.

“That’s what I learned that night and why you should never judge another for their definition of love. You see, by that night, I’d known her for well over 1,800 days. We met as friends. We became good friends. We eventually became dear friends. By that night we celebrated her birthday, it had been sixty days since I realized that I was hopelessly in love with her.

My idea of love had never changed; to this very day, it’s still the same.

Love lives every day if you can see the person you love as if it were the first time you ever saw her face and the first time you ever spent time with her. Most couples over time forget the reason why they fell in love in the first place. True love will never let you forget; and if you truly love her, you will never let yourself forget.

When I sat across the table from her, looking into her eyes, tracing every line on her face, it was as if I had seen her for the very first time memorizing every feature I could commit to memory. With each bit of detail memorized, the more and more I fell in love. However, it was not just the physical nature of her appearance that I was memorizing, that I was seeing again as if for the first time, it was everything about her, how kind she was and how caring, how giving she was, her sensuality, her determination, her fire, and her love. I saw and felt all of those things as I sat across from the table mesmerized by everything she was.

What I didn’t realize up until that moment – and this is more of an indictment to my own emotional immaturity at that time in my life – was what I had always wanted was right there before me this entire time I had known her. When they say timing is everything, it could not be more true.

I was not ready to see what was there before me. I had spent over 1,800 days not realizing the love of my life was right there before me. Once that veil had been lifted, my life irrevocably changed for the better ever since.”

“So what happened?”

“We lived happily ever after, of course.”

Go Adventure. Go Travel. Go Live.

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