LOOK OUT! IT’S LOVE!
I was talking to my son, Joe, on the phone last night when I heard something I never heard before.
Sarah is the youngest of our eight grandchildren. She was born 10 days ago in a hospital 2,100 miles away. Because of various circumstances, we won't be able to actually see her and kiss her cute, chubby cheeks until late April. But last night I heard her sweet, soft, slightly husky cry in the background while I was talking to her Daddy.
And now, I'm in love.
Don't get me wrong – I loved her from the first moment I heard she was on her way. I loved her when all that I could see of her was the basketball-like protrusion from her mother's tummy. And when Joe texted the news that his baby girl had been born, I loved her all the more.
But last night I heard her fussing in protest of the diaper change that was taking place at the time. And now I . . . you know . . . love her.
As opposed to loving her like I did before.
It's sort of that way with love, isn't it? It evolves and changes through the phases of life. The love I felt for Anita on the day she finally accepted my ring (five days after I had actually proposed, by the way) was different than the love I felt for her on the day we were married. And that love was different from the love I felt nine months to the day later, when our first child, AmyJo, was born. And that love was different from the love I felt for her 12 years ago when our first grandchild, Becky, was born. And that love is different than the love I feel for her today, after more than three decades of marriage.
It’s all love. Just different layers of love.
The same kind of evolutionary process has occurred in my relationship with each of my children and grandchildren. Which brings me to another thing about love: it expands. After AmyJo was born, my heart was so full of love for her I couldn't imagine loving anyone or anything else as much as I loved her (even though her dorky Uncle Steve thought she looked like a space alien). But then Joe came along, and there was plenty of room in my heart for him. And then for Andrea. And then for Elizabeth. And then for Jon.
I don't love AmyJo any less because my love had to be spread around among her younger brothers and sisters. Nor do I love Jon any less because I had expended my love quota by the time he came along. I love all five of them – and their spouses, whom I've grown to love as if they were my own children, too.
And even though Becky will always be beloved as my No. 1 grandchild, my capacity for loving has expanded through the years to include equal portions of love for Julianne, Samantha, Emily, Dallin, Tommy and Alexander.
And now, Sarah.
My Mom had eight children and 54 grandchildren, and so I consider her to be something of an expert on love expansion. After decades of watching her teenage children fall in and out of romantic relationships, she said it was easy to tell when the relationship was love-based and when it was not.
"If they are moody and dramatic and can't think of anything or anyone else, it isn't love," she once told me. "If they are happy and kind and loving – look out. It's love."
It's been 30 years since Mom died, and while I haven't become the love expert that she was, I've certainly seen the difference between love and obsession in my own life and in the lives of my children. And so when I tell you that I love my new granddaughter, sight unseen, I think I know what I'm talking about. I mean, look at this smile on my face. I'm happy. I try to be kind. And I've just written a whole, entire column about loving.
Look out! It's love!
~ © Joseph B. Walker
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