We're moving smartly towards Valentine's Day (wasn't Christmas just last week?!!). I'm feeling especially Valentine-y this year. I've been touched by the magic of true love. Know where I found it? The nursing home where I'm doing my clinical work.
There is a man there. He is gracious and wonderful. Cheerful. He has a lot of friends who come and visit him. One of them said, "Do you know that Mr. R is a dancer?" and we looked towards him. "Really?" and he answered, "Oh, yes. My wife and I loved to dance. We loved to waltz."
One of the women said, "I have never waltzed," and although he protested, he was soon up, and the two of them glided across the floor a couple times.
When Mr. R sat down, I saw him with a very faraway look in his eyes, and his chin quivered. I knew that he was remembering the fit of another woman in his arms.
My mouth made a perfect O, and tears filled my own eyes. She's been gone for six years, and he still grieves. He thinks of her every day, and every day he cries a little. He said so.
I was able to find a quiet moment to tell him, "Mr. R, sometimes people spend their whole lives looking for exactly what you had, and you had that for 69 years. You are a very lucky man." He looked at me, this tiny little man with his walker, and he smiled through his own tears. "I know it," he said. "I know how very lucky I am."
That's true love.
There's another man, and he has Alzheimers. He's gentle and he has that vague look that you see in this population. He talks like Jimmy Stewart. His wife is a beautiful woman who comes to see him every day, and she is devoted to him.
She came in during therapy, and we had a chance to visit as her husband worked. I said something, and he responded quickly, making a joke. We all laughed together, and I said, "You've got quite a sense of humor," and his wife responded, "Oh, how I miss that," and you could hear the pain in her voice, and the longing of her soul.
She is a brave woman, and she took a deep breath. She kissed her husband, and she left, promising that she would be back. After she left, I commented to him, "Your wife is beautiful," and he agreed, sounding incredulous. "She sure is. She always has been beautiful," and he talked about his wife, and you could tell. He might be confused, but he remembers still that he loves this woman, that he has loved her for 65 years.
When I walked him back to his room, he said, "What do I do now? Someone will be coming to take me home, probably." My friend sits down to wait with a hopeful look on his face. His wife will be back, and he will be glad to see her, and she will be glad to see him, even though it breaks her heart a bit every time she does.
That's true love.
A lot of folks read schmaltzy romances, or watch some movie, and sometimes, I think that people might get the idea that true love is not something you find in real life any more. But it is. Look for it. I have seen it with my own eyes, and the one thing that I know for sure is that true love is touches two lives with an enduring sort of magic. However, I also believe also that if you are lucky enough to catch even a glimpse of it, that magic laps over and touches your own life too.
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. Look at each other, and remember the things that drew you to each other in the beginning. Waltz together, and remember together. Celebrate all your days. Be mad, and then get over it. Laugh together. Find things in common. Have interests of your own. Cook together. Support each other always. Be together. When you are apart, think of each other. Small things, really, none of it earthshaking or even especially original, but it's the stuff of relationships. It always has been. It will not change.
And that's true love.