I wrote this column five years ago and I believe it's every bit as relevant this week as it was for Valentine's Day of 2008. Please enjoy it--either again or for the first time!
I don't remember what the promotion was for but when I was in my mid-teens, one of the stores in downtown Davenport, Iowa gave out little red and white metal buttons that said "I Am Loved." Now if you were cool, you had one, because the store that did the promotion was one of THE places to shop at the time. It was one of those little status symbol things--rated right up there with little alligators on your shirts, red Levi tabs on your back pockets, the Nike swoosh--you get the idea. Did I have one? Of course I did. What--you thought I wasn't cool? Well, that was then--just take my word for it.
Anyway, in the late sixties and early seventies, there was much ado about love. One of the big songs was "What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love." Once the Flower Children found San Francisco, we had what they called "Free Love." We had Love Children (NO MOM & DAD--NOT ME PERSONALLY). We even had a television show called "Love American Style." We had Love Story--the book and the movie. (Did you know you never have to say you're sorry?) There was plenty of love to go around or so it seemed.
But it was also a time when we began to see more marriages dissolve--divorce was losing its stigma--more and more people were calling it quits before they'd even raised their kids. Before long, it was perfectly acceptable to "get going" when the "going got tough." And lots of people did.
It seems that from our teens on, we think we know what love is. There's a really hunky guy or a cute girl and when they seem to pay attention to us, all of a sudden, we think we're in love. And then, if the relationship continues and gets serious, well then we REALLY think we're in love and rings get exchanged and then...and then, you'd better be in love. Because you are about to find out that love has far less to do with all the warm fuzzy feelings you've been experiencing and lots more to do with how you get through every day and stay together.
I got married five days before my 20th birthday. It was an unlikely situation. We had only dated four months before we decided to set a date. He was 13 years older than I was. My parents had never met him, as they had moved to Arizona before I began dating him. In fact, making the phone call to my parents demanded one of my better performances, as not only was there the age spread, but my husband-to-be had been married once before and had two children to boot. Fortunately for me, those were the days when you had to pay for long distance, so begging off the call after just a few minutes was perfectly acceptable--even recommended by my father's financial practices! (He loathed high phone bills and high utility bills)
We got married on November 17, 1973. I began to find out what real love was almost right away. November in eastern Iowa--western Illinois is not exactly camping weather--yet that is exactly what we did for most of our honeymoon. The good thing about camping in November is that you don't have to fight with anyone else for the primo campsites. You've pretty much got your choice. My first test of love came when Prince Charming (later to be known by other endearing names, some of which we cannot go into here) picked a campsite as FAR AWAY from the bathrooms as he could possibly find.
But that was early on and both parties can get by with a bit more than they might down the road--and so we both passed that first test.
What I learned next about love was that most people don't keep that "swept off your feet" feeling forever. After the "I Do's", days turn into months and pretty soon, months have turned into years. By now, little people have joined the fray and life begins to get more hectic and busy (and expensive) as time goes by. This is when the real lessons on love begin.
Now time has flown and I can scarcely believe that come this November, we will celebrate our 35th (now 40th) wedding anniversary. We haven't always been happy----we haven't always been comfortable--we haven't always agreed. But we have always been "we." And I believe the reason we have is because of the lessons we learned over the years about what love really is. This is what I know.
Love is what gets you through when one of your children is so sick that the worst that can happen, might.
Love is what gets you through when you have countless medical issues and the other person takes care of you--over and over and never complains.
Love is what makes you hang in there when the money gets tight--when the dog dies--when the kids have discovered what "legal responsibility" means.
Love is what allows one person to make the sacrifices sometimes necessary to fulfill the other's dreams and to know that it works both ways.
Love is what gets you through the first steps and the first words of your children, and the last steps and the last words of your parents.
Love is what lets you know that no matter how good or how bad it gets, that other person is going to be there, no question.
So as we approach the special day that's been set aside to celebrate and honor love, I just wanted to let my special Valentine know how much he means to me and how much I appreciate the journey we've made together.
I don't have my little red button anymore, but I don't think I really need it. I don't know if I'm still cool, but I do know I Am Loved.
Have a great week, and love one another.