what we talk about when we talk about love.

I look through the old photo album.  I see their wedding picture.  Pictures on vacation from their honeymoon.  Venezuela.  They are young.  Young, and thin, and full of life.  She’s wearing a bikini for God’s sake.  Thirty years later… Well… She’d turn heads in a different way wearing a bikini now.  But you know what, I know that he still sees her as just as sexy as the woman she was thirty years ago.

And she’s still beautiful.  Don’t get me wrong.  Just not in that sexy twenty-year old girl at the beach kind of way.  Not anymore at least.

“How do you guys do it?  How can you wake up beside the same person every single day for thirty years… How haven’t you guys gotten annoyed with each other yet?”  I ask this genuinely.  I can’t imagine not getting sick of anyone after that long of a period.

“Well, he’s my best friend.  And even though he knows the right buttons to push, and I know the ones to push for him.  He’s also the person who knows the exact way I need to feel soothed.”

“Okay.  But I’ve had other boyfriends and they’re all my best friends at the time.  And at the time you can’t imagine yourself with anyone else.  And then time passes and you find yourself living without them and you realize that you don’t actually need them in the way that you thought.”

She pauses.  Considering that for a moment.  “Yes.  But maybe consider why those relationships never worked?  Was it infidelity, or if it wasn’t that was it infidelity and then the inability to let things go?  Or petty fights?  Passive-aggressiveness.  Problems that you both encountered and couldn’t seem to fix?  Maybe the difference is that you could have fixed them, but maybe you didn’t love each other enough.”

“Okay.  But I can think of one person, who I loved like crazy.  I felt more for him than I did for anyone else.  And we just fought all the time.  We were too similar that we just always clashed.”

“Fought over what?”

“Anything.  I don’t know.  I’d do things he didn’t like, and instead of telling me about it, he’d just do something I wouldn’t like and would wait for me to find out.  And then I’d retaliate… I don’t know.  We fought about a lot.  But I really loved him.  I wanted it to work.”

“Do you hear yourself though?  It shouldn’t have worked.  Either you guys would have loved each other enough to realize what you were doing and change.  That relationship was toxic.  If you somehow made that work for longer, you would make yourselves unhappy anyway.  That’s not love…  Or maybe it is.  Who knows.  But I know it’s not the kind of love where you can build a life together.  The repercussions of doing things to spite each other when you’re older are far more dire.  Maybe you loved each other but I think you either didn’t love each other enough, or it just wasn’t meant to be.  It’s hard to decide which one though.”

We look at each other.  Pondering this.

“I don’t mean to demean your love,” she continues.  “But I think when you love a person, when you love them enough to want to spend your life with them, you love them too much to want to, or even consider, disrespecting them.  And doing things for the sole purpose of hurting them is blatant disrespect.  That’s a slippery slope.  The relationship is doomed as soon as you start doing those sorts of things.”

“Well, how do you stop yourself from doing that?  How do you maintain a healthy relationship?”

“Like I said, he’s my best friend.  He’s my best friend that I tell everything to.  You know the best friend that you have that you vent to about how annoying your boyfriend is?”

We both look at each other and laugh.

“Definitely.”

“Well, your dad’s that person for me too.  When he’s annoying and I can’t stand him, and he won’t get off the couch, or doesn’t do something that he says he will.  I vent to him about it.  I tell him he’s annoying, or needs to get off the couch.  And I don’t do it in a rude way – “

I can’t help but let a sceptical laugh at that.

“Okay,” she smiles, “Okay, I don’t always say it in a rude way.  But sometimes I’m annoyed!”  She defends herself.  “What I mean is that I really think communication is key.  And I tell him everything, even the hard stuff.  I tell him when I’m unhappy, even if he plays a factor into that unhappiness – something that is extremely difficult to do at times.  But I also tell him about all the times he’s the factor to my exultation.  Things aren’t always going to be peaches and cream, but we’re there for each other either way.”

“Okay.  Well I get that then.  I get that, you guys are best friends but…” I pause.  Do I really want to ask my mother this?

She’s looking at me with a sly smile.  It’s like she already knows what I’m going to ask her.

“How do you guys like…Still find each other attractive?”

“Your dad’s a sexy little number, Kait!”  She says this so enthusiastically too…

“Ew.”

“Well I’m serious.  Maybe it’s hard for you to see it in the same way as I do.  But I’ve known him since he was sixteen.  I knew him when he had braces, and was a tall lanky little teenager.  And then we saw each other again, and he was a man.  The braces were gone, and his hair was cut short, and he had a cute little v-neck sweater and a nice pair of jeans, and you know what I thought? Well that’s a handsome young man.  And I wanted him to be mine.  So I asked him out.  And you know, it’s been us together ever since.  And yes he’s older, and packed on a few pounds.  I mean, so have I… But he’s still the same person, Kaitlyn.  He’s still my guy.”

She’s smiling.  In another world.  Another decade.  “And you know what?  He still looks killer in a nice v-neck.”

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Fireside Chat.”

Today’s prompt reminded me of one of my favourite short stories by Raymond Carver, a true and telling version of what love is.  And sometimes the things that are said are not things you want to hear, but they’re so honest that the story always sticks with you.

Now my mom isn’t someone I barely know, but a lot of this conversation would be hard to have.  Hard to have because there are intimate questions that maybe I wouldn’t want to know the answers to, and hard because I don’t like telling her about my relationships either.  And although she is someone I know very well, a conversation like this with her is uncertain territory, and a subject that we may not ever have.

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