Commentary: Love

By Adam Granger

My 1971 Oxford English Dictionary uses more than 11,000 words to define love; my Aminex Micro Mini Dictionary uses two: “strong affection.”

Love is a houseguest that comes—often unbidden—and stays according to its own schedule. You think it’s transitory, and it abides; you think it will be there forever, and it’s gone, fading over time or flaming out in minutes.

Love merges the otherwise unmergeable. It creates the most and the least likely of unions.

Love hurts, love scars, love wounds and mars, sang the Everly Brothers 50 years ago; love starts like a triolet and ends like a college yell, wrote H.L. Mencken 100 years ago. But 2,000 years ago, Virgil wrote, “Love conquers all.”

Love is being forgiven when you ran out of gas halfway up the Gunflint Trail. Or when you thought the new Dyson was a wet-vac.

Love is sticking all of your stuff in a storage locker and giving away Flip the goldfish and—against the pleadings of your friends and family—moving to Saskatchewan to be with that lumberjack you met on Amtrak last spring. Love is your friends—and Flip—welcoming you back six months later and not ever bringing it up again.

Tennyson wrote of the cruel madness of love, Dryden’s love was a malady without a cure and Dorothy Parker claimed that love was a thing that can never go wrong (right before she claimed she  was “Marie of Roumania”). But to Milton, love was like eating a lot of chocolate and, when Shakespeare’s love spoke, the voice of all the gods made heaven drowsy with the harmony.

On bumper stickers, we “heart” everything from peekapoos to labor unions to trampolines to Mary Kay cosmetics.

Love attends marriages, funerals, christenings, anniversaries, sometimes divorces, boat launchings, bridge reopenings, rent parties, mortgage burnings, rodeos, reunions and bocce ball tournaments.

Love is being a good sport when she takes you to see “The English Patient.”

Love neither asks nor answers questions. When it takes prisoners, it usually abides by the Geneva Conventions.

Love is giving him the benefit of the doubt when you ask for a boa for Christmas and he buys you a snake.

Seal sings that love is powerful and Lord Acton wrote that power corrupts, but as a general rule, love doesn’t corrupt.

Love has clodhoppers and cat feet. It wears hand-me-downs and Halston. It reads pulp fiction and Proust. It drives clunkers and Cadillacs. It eats at Wendy’s and the Waldorf.

You can love stuff, but it can’t love you back. Some animals can love, and some say that plants can. Cats can love, but generally have poorly developed female sides, so it’s sometimes hard to tell.

Only dogs and humans love slavishly.

Love is saying you’re sorry when you’re on your honeymoon in New York City and you buy tickets for the Mets instead of the Met. Or when you wash her silk blouse with the throw rugs.

Love is climbing behind him onto the back of a Harley-Davidson and heading to Sturgis wearing a red bandana and a fringed jacket and a T-shirt that reads, “Bad Boy’s Broad.”

T.S. Eliot’s love was most nearly itself when here and now ceased to matter. Camus knew of only one duty, and that was to love. Ursula Le Guin’s love didn’t sit there like a stone, it had to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new. Thurber’s love was what you have been through with somebody after 27 years of marriage and six children. Nikki Giovanni’s love was only and always about the lover and never the beloved. Rainer Maria Rilke’s love was two solitudes protecting and touching and greeting each other. Sylvia Plath’s love was a shadow, Anita Brookner’s a pilgrimage.

When empires fall, when Vikings lose, when musicians are locked out, when cars die, when root canals go wrong, when kids go nuts, when soufflés collapse, when memory fades, when jobs and savings and dreams vanish, when human frailty reigns and words fail, there’s love, with its yellow smiley-face grin, sitting in the parlor, patiently waiting.

Adam Granger makes his home with his wife, son, dog and cat in St. Anthony Park. He is a frequent contributor to the Park Bugle.

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