Love is…

Love is…Walkin’ together, Talkin’ together, Singin’ together, Prayin’ together… Talkin’ about the power   Al Green

In the immortal words of Al Green, in his sexy song, Love and Happiness, he talks about love. What is love anyway? Forever through all ages, philosophers and poets, writers and artists have been trying to define love. I’m going to go out on a limb and say I’m a bit of an authority and can write about love with some measure of confidence. Why? Summer, 2021 marks my fiftieth wedding anniversary. Just think of it. Fifty years married to the same person, and we still love each other deeply. That is a milestone not too many couples reach, especially these days. How did we do it? How did we get this far? We traversed a long road with its share of detours, bumps, and obstacles, but we managed to navigate through all of it. Maybe the key in the words of Al Green is getting through it all   “together.”

                So let’s go back to the June night we met. It was at a Jewish singles party, a Blue Monday event in San Francisco at a club in North Beach. I bugged my older brother to take me. I was supposed to be twenty one, but I was only nineteen. I liked “older” guys. I was a junior at UC Berkeley, but I could pass for twenty one. I had ashy blonde hair to my shoulders, wore a polyester black and white pants outfit (polyester was big in 1970) and looked pretty cute. I was tall and hated dancing with shrimpy guys whose nose came up to my boobs.

                Somehow I turned around, and there was a tall guy (OK check that off my list). He had black glasses, dark brown curly hair, and I noticed his sweater had a tear on the sleeve. (Hmmm…) He asked me to dance, and of course I said yes, torn sweater and all. I think it was to the Youngbloods. Turned out he did not want come that night and had been coerced by his friend with dinner in Chinatown at their favorite restaurant. He borrowed money from him to buy me a drink. Despite this somewhat inauspicious first impression, we hung out, danced and talked, and he arranged for his friend to drive me home. When he walked me up the stairs at my parents’ home, we ran right in to my father just coming home from a synagogue board meeting. They shook hands. Somehow they liked each other from that brief encounter.

                That night was the beginning for us and in retrospect it was “bashert” or destined. We started dating but then after just a few dates I went away to a summer leadership institute, and he went to his Army reserve training. This was during Vietnam and as a reservist, he had to go for training in the summer. We wrote during our six week separation. These were the days of no email of course. Those silly cards and sweet letters kept the fire we had just ignited burning, and we got back together as soon as we returned. It did not take long. We dated, met each other’s families, and got to know each other all rather quickly.

What was it that made us “fall in love” and get engaged by September after being together for just a few months? I think of the words of a favorite educator of mine who used to say, “You don’t Fall in love, you Rise in love.” I believe that sentiment is still so true. It did not take long, and he was all I thought about. We were crazy about each other. We went out with his parents to see a musical, Promises Promises. He brought me home to my apartment in Berkeley, and before I knew what was happening we made our own promises to each other to spend our lives together and we got engaged that Saturday night.

                What drew us together? First there was physical attraction, an important ingredient. You have to find each other sexy and be compatible in that department. Sexual attraction is the cherry on top of the sundae. It is certainly not enough to sustain a relationship but it is very important.

 Then there was an underpinning of important values we both shared. Shared values are like a foundation of a building. It is what you build on. We shared the same religion, and though my background was more observant it didn’t matter.  We were both close to our families and honored our parents. Trust and honesty were a given, and we never wavered in believing in each other. We were and still are best friends.

 We loved to laugh and have fun together. We have not stopped doing that over all these years. We were kind to each other. We never said mean, hurtful words. Those are words you can never take back. It’s not to say we don’t have disagreements and know how to push each other’s buttons. For example, he gets annoyed when I buy food that we already have in the pantry. He always says, “take inventory.” I can’t stand when he leaves cabinet doors open like a trail after himself.  That’s all little  stupid stuff. The bottom line is, we respect one another and build each other up. We admire each other for our strengths, and accept our weaknesses and shortcomings.  We each have our interests and don’t have to be together all the time.

Love is so many things. Love is when he stayed by my side through my cancer diagnosis and treatment, bringing me to every chemo session. Love is when I never left his side  for the six weeks he spent in the  hospital when he was recuperating from complications from bypass surgery. Other couples might have cracked and faltered. We got stronger. Love is sharing the joy of our children and grandchildren.  We still say “I love you” at night before we go to bed. We still kiss and hold hands. He still tells me I am beautiful, despite my lines and gray hair which he apparently doesn’t see. We don’t make each other wait if we are meeting at a certain time . I am still excited to see him.  Al Green got it right. “Love is…” the power. 

3 thoughts on “Love is…

  1. Dear Joanne, your words ring so clearly, while others fair to capture, the fact that there is no rule or condition for love. Love will exist in its own way for each and in as many ways as there are conditions. The important is to know and understand what makes it work and how to let it endure.
    This sailor knew the little girl of the 50’s and am so proud of how you’ve turned out.
    Thank you for your story.. may it continue for another 50 years.


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