I realize that the topic of love has been rehashed and done over a thousand times. The older I get the more I am aware of how little I know about this fleeting subject that at times slips through our fingers like a silk scarf and at the same time I feel I now have grasped a depth that I never knew existed. Once you get past the obvious tabloid and social media clap trap of what it is not, then maybe, if you’re lucky, you can begin to understand what it might be.
We all know the standard definitions that get trotted out like the usual suspects…love is giving (which it is), or they will cite I Corinthians 13, or they may quote a Shakespearean sonnet, but when all the dust settles, can love really be defined with finite words and quotations that fall out of our mental rolodex? That seems to easy and to bland. Well, let me try to wrap my mind around what I think it might be. There are those moments, though I had to wait 58 years to experience one, that seem to blossom like a rose and when you least expect it.
It was my 58th birthday and someone who I had only known for about four months decided to throw me a small birthday party. There were a few friends who attended and of course, she was there. I was invited over and out she came with steak, cake, ice cream and even a present. Those who are close to me know that I am very emotional when I am touched with true, selfless giving. I was stunned! No one had ever gone out of there way and so unselfishly done something like this for me. The food was great, some laughter as kind of a dessert to add to the ambiance, but oddly, it was the gift she bought me. A picture on a piece of wood taken from an old comic book of the Avengers. I was fighting the tears, because I knew if I had allowed that first one to fall, it would have been followed by a deluge of delight. Why so special? After all, come on, it was a comic book writ large on a piece of wood. But it was much more than that…it was someone who had paid attention to the things I really like that bring me joy. It was something from someone who cared enough to be aware of what I like and that was a first time experience, my friend.
I came to know this wonderful woman more and more. We began to spend time together, go on small road trips and sometimes her daughter would go with us. We went to comic book stores, of course, and clothing stores as well. We ate meals and after about six weeks of this I remember waking up one morning and thinking to myself that my life was better when she was in it. Her son and I began to talk baseball, a passion for both of us. Her daughter and I would stay up late at night, pouring over essays and applications and scholarships to get into a college that she thought she would and could enjoy. It soon became apparent that her children were reflections of her…bright, charming, energetic and simply fun to be around. I was a better person from having them all in my life.
It was obvious to me that if love was being around someone who made you feel that good about yourself and wasn’t afraid to challenge your ego and your pride, then I might just have discovered someone pretty special. She was special. She pushed me without shoving to reach my potential, even when I couldn’t see it. She plucked me from my safety net and it was painful and I even remember being irritated at times, because Tim Smith didn’t want to budge from Plato’s cave. I liked it there, looking at the passing shadows that I thought was reality. It wasn’t. She forced me up out of the cave and when I stepped out and saw the sun for the first time, metaphorically speaking, I was blinded and wanted to run back down into the cave. I have retreated to that cave since and I feel peaceful and at rest. But I now realize that in that cave, while peaceful, is a trap and a delusion that makes me feel like I am reaching my full potential, but in fact I am in bondage to those delusions and am paralyzed by my own pride.
I had fallen in love, which suggests that I had met someone who made me better just being around them. There was now a window of peace I was able to look through. And it wasn’t blurry or smudged at all…it was as clear as the transluceny of looking through the Hubble telescope. Neither one of us were prepared for what was to follow, both good and bad. The good was at times beatific, taking us to places that were not describable with human language and that meant everything from a gentle kiss to laughing while shopping at a clothing store.
Then it happened…the disease which I had told her about reared its head with prodigious terror. I am a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. I have lived with this since I was about eleven years old. It has gone dormant at times and in different situations it has caused unmitigated horror in my life and those around me. The real frustration is that I sometimes can’t remember things that I say, especially when the disease is in full force. Shem indicated I said things that were very hurtful, which I don’t remember. The window that used to yield beautiful, gentle breezes was shutting and I didn’t know how to reopen it, so I did what was comfortable…I went back to Platos’s cave. I sat there for twelve days and though it was comfortable, it was most of the time miserable. It was the longest twelve days of my life and I thought about her every second of the day, but didn’t know how to crawl back up out and once again see the daylight of life.
I finally did and we slowly and forgivingly on her behalf began to mend some fences. I want to tell her how sorry I am, but I don’t even remember what I said that was painful, yet when she mentions what I said, though no details, I can see the pain in her eyes and can her it in her voice. It makes me want to run back to the cave, knowing how badly I hurt the one person that completes me more than anyone I have ever met. The road back has been somewhat blissful as we seem to have recaptured the one thing that began it all…friendship coupled with laughter.
At times I do feel like I am voyaging through seas of thought by myself, one second thinking about multi-variable calculus and,the next moment thinking about baseball and DC comics. All by myself. My friend, who is also my best friend, has made me realize that I need proper medication and counseling, which I do, not to mention to stop using my illness as an excuse to cover a multitudes of sins. That has been hard. Her beauty is outward, but more importantly inward as well. And that has been a joy to watch unfold. There is no way to predict our future. We, I , have a lot of work to do. Without my disease, at times, it feels like I wouldn’t be able to reach up as high as I have in the intellectual world. But do those epiphanies also come with a price. Life doesn’t seem to know and neither do I.