Love comes in many forms throughout our lives and we experience it differently depending on our age, our family, and where we are in life. As I reflect on my life, my family has received my unconditional love for as long as I can remember. My love has resided in my heart and at times, has been so intense that it aches. I can remember feeling the clinging, dependent love for my mother when I was a little girl, and the longing love for a father I barely got to know. I remember the loving times with my sister, spending hours playing, imagining, singing and giggling, wishing for our perception of normal. I remember the excitement I felt when my mother remarried and I had the chance to have a father to love and who would love me. I remember crushes, and more serious young love and then, the surprise of meeting the one who would change my life.
Meeting Gary, who would become my husband and my life-partner, opened the door to unconditional love apart from that of my parents and sister. The kind of love that sticks around through the years, the experiences, and the ups and downs of years of living, growing, and aging together. We were young when we met and we learned to be adults together. We shared interests and learned to appreciate each other’s passions: the ocean, music, the mountains, theater, baseball and books. We were there for each other during the happy celebrations and we waded together through the scary times.
Children come into our lives, planned, unplanned, quickly or after years of hoping. When they do, with their small, soft innocence, their sweet, intoxicating smell, and utter dependence on us to meet their every need, it is impossible not to fall in love. As our children grow, we live through their ups and downs, we are the consummate cheerleaders with the photos to prove it, and we hold out safety nets and are cushions for their falls.
Our pets show up in our lives, sometimes mysteriously, sometimes with intention. They are found in the puddles in alleys, in animal shelters and through rescue organizations. We look for the perfect companion and when we find our life-long friend, we shower them with unconditional love. We forgive them for shedding, chewing, for eating the food off our plates. We teach them to go out to pee, to sit, and try to teach them to stay off the couch. We take them for walks in the heat of the summer and in the rain. Their aging is hard for us and losing them is heartbreaking.
Life, like love, can be unconditional. We don’t have the control we want to believe we have; we learn to ride the ebbs and flows, to relinquish control and to find a way to love life unconditionally. We take the gift of each day and we look for signs of love, in heart-shaped rocks, in clouds and in the foam of a latté.