Recognizing Love

by 26Health Staff

Here’s a thought question we all ponder from time to time: what is love?

My first thought goes to my mother. When I’ve had a tough day, I call her and feel better just hearing the sound of her southern twang. I’m immediately calmed and all’s right with the world.

But things are easy with my mom. I’ve never had to compete with anyone for her affection. She’s accepted and supported me, no matter what – even when I was being a jerk or making horrible decisions with my life. She’s always been there for comfort, advice, or a shoulder to lean or cry on.

A love in my life that hasn’t always come easy is between me and my father.

Love, Even Among Differences

I tell clients about my dad all the time. He’s been in Boy Scouts of America all his life. If the Zombie Apocalypse breaks out, he’s the guy you want around – even though he’s 89 years old and can barely get out of a chair. He’s got mad survival skills.

An old college roommate of his once told my mom that my dad kept flunking out of NC State University because he couldn’t be bothered to get up in time for class before noon. But every Sunday, come rain, sleet, hail, or snow (and this man claims he’s seen my father walk through all four), he was at the Sacred Heart Cathedral at 7:45 AM for the 8:00 AM mass. He’s been a Eucharistic Minister all his life.

He didn’t make it through NCSU. My dad was drafted into the service to fight in the Korean War. He kept trying to get out, but those mad survival skills got him “promoted” and he fought on the front lines for the better part of a year.

I respect my dad’s tenacity, but he holds core values that conflict with mine. For long stretches, we struggled to have a conversation or sit in the same room together. Defining what is love with him was always challenging.

Love in Actions, Not Words

Unconditional Love

My dad was not a man who expressed feelings, talked about anything too deep, or said “I love you.” He always supported me financially, paying my way through college and helping out with rent and bills when I didn’t get enough shifts at the restaurant. He bought my first car and helped me get another one after I wrecked the first and received a DUI at the age of 17.

I never doubted for one minute of my life that my dad loved me. Through clenched fists and gritted teeth, he loved me. Through catching me sneaking out of the house after dark, my “party girl” phase, my political activism, becoming an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community (before it was the “cool” thing to do) – throughout, or maybe DESPITE, all of that, he still loved me.

And I think that’s what real love is. It’s unconditional love and 100%, even when the other person is being impossible. If you can go through life having ONE person who can love you genuinely, you’re lucky.

Take some time to tell your special person, “I love you!” Whether it’s a parent or a partner, I’m sure they’d love to hear it.