So, since my parents are visiting, I thought it was a good time to talk about love. Specifically, the kind of love they have, and the kind of love I (eventually) want.
My parents met when they were a little older than the American average, especially in the 1980s — 36 and 33 respectively. They are a couple that inhabits what might be generously referred to as the adage ‘opposites attract’.
My dad is a true intellectual. At turns esoteric and wildly enthusiastic, both open and shrewd, he’s equally at home at a football game and an obscure museum.
My mom is the gregarious type. Both incredibly engaging and occasionally shy, she’s an avid consumer of information who’s happy to know all the trivia on a Hollywood celebrity and keep up on the nitty-gritty of the latest political crises.
On paper, they don’t quite make sense. In practice though, my parents work: puzzle pieces whose rounded knobs and crisp lines merge into completed pictures with sharp and carefully crafted edges.
As a kid, I remember knowing from a very early age that my parents were different from a lot of the other moms and dads. Not in a bad or scary way, but in one that made sense even in my earliest recollections. Their affection was never contrived or overwrought, but was always there, a quiet hum underneath the minutiae of their day-to-day.
They yelled — loudly and often. When they were happy, sad, impatient, bored, excited, enraged, too lazy to come downstairs, to tired to go up — they yelled. Loudness was synonymous with love, expect for in the quiet spaces — of which there were many — and which spoke of a peaceful and comfortable affection all its own.
My mom and dad never pretended to be people they weren’t. They aired their vanity, hubris, pride, and selfishness alongside their generosity, their kindness, and their selflessness. They never claimed to be perfect, but that’s what is so perfect about who they are together.
When my mom was helping my grandmother pack up her childhood home, my dad flew cross-country on a red-eye flight to help her without being asked. When his father died, my mother was a pillar of support for my father, at turns boisterous and introspective, a constant calm in a sea of uncertainty. After a stressful time a few years back, my dad took my mom on a surprise vacation to Hawaii, no questions asked. That’s who they are to each other.
Sure, their life hasn’t been perfect — no one’s is. But they give and they take and they share. Camaraderie and laughter, honesty and tears.
Really, at its core, it’s the visible the respect they share each and every day that gets to me. That’s what I want. Not perfection. But a love that is both loud and quiet, soft and fierce. Imperfect but mighty, and an ever-changing thing. A collage of opposites that grows as they do. A puzzle whose picture is always changing. That’s the kind of love my parents share. That’s the kind of love I want. If you’re worried it’s not out there? Let me tell you, I’ve seen it in action — 28 years’ worth.
Day 144: May 26. 2017