Love is a Choice

So the manufactured greeting-card holiday of Valentine’s Day has come and gone, leaving in its wake half-eaten boxes of chocolate and hothouse flowers wilting in cheap vases.

For me, Valentine’s Day was a rather harried affair, involving multiple criss-crossings across Rusk County for reasons that have nothing to do with flowers or candy but everything to do with my present occupation.

By the time I’d arrived home to present my wife with a bouquet and hastily-scrawled poem of my affections, the hour was late and the day nearly gone.

I flatter myself an old-school Romantic of the “sentiment by impulsive theatrics” variety so it was disappointing to have wasted a seasonal opportunity to thus communicate the depth of my ardor.

With our four children having been fed, bathed, and bedded-down for the night, it was all we could do but spend a few quiet moments in conversation before the night’s rest beckoned.

As I was dozing off, I suddenly remembered an elder couple I’d gone to church with when I’d lived out on the East Coast.

They’d been married longer than my own parents had been alive, and were an invaluable resource with practical marriage advice to my wife and I.

I recall one time asking them about the usual turn of holidays and birthdays. I think I’d made some quip about wondering how many dozens of roses or boxes of Russell Stover chocolates he’d purchased over the years.

“Well, I just hope you got your money’s worth,” I said, with a playful smirk.

He smiled at my wit, taking a sly pause before responding in kind.

“She’s still with me, isn’t she?” he said, matching my smirk with a cocksure grin.

But more than this snarky banter, I recall what he said next.

“You don’t stay together as long as we have by remembering all the holidays, anniversaries and birthdays, but by remembering all the regular days in-between,” he said. “You stay in love because you remember that first moment when you realized you loved her. It continues to grow every day, year after year…  every single day is a choice, every single day you choose to love her, and every single day you grow to love her more.”

That struck me as soon as he said it, that every day is a choice. That love is a choice.

As a dreamy youth and passionate young man, I recall how I often imagined love as some benevolent but immutable force that crept silently and overcame people, helpless to its sway. That it also departed as suddenly as it came, and people could simply “fall out of love” as easily as they had fallen in.

But life and wisdom have taught me the folly in this.

Like the man who spoke the above words to me, a man who has been in love with one woman for over 60 years, I now know that love is a choice.

Flowers and candy are nice enough trifles for such arbitrary occasions as Valentine’s Day (or other festivities), but there’s something deeper in the closeness found in the quiet knowing of each day.

Between the crash and flash of the lightning, are the calming rains that replenish the earth.

Amidst the sparkle and hum of frivols are the “mundane” hours spent drawn in closeness. So to is it also for those who wish to build a marriage.

Just as the decisions, words and deeds of each hour become the summation of our existence, love too is built and sustained moment by moment.

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