What Is Love?

Dylan Jack James
Guest Contributor

I learned early on that love is more than a feeling.

It started with little Maggie in the third grade. 

I thought she was the most beautiful girl I had ever laid eyes on. Dark brown hair fell in ringlets across her shoulders and matched her big brown eyes. She wore pretty little dresses to school each day and was extremely shy. She would invite me over to her house; hardly a peep came out of her mouth while she played with her dolls. I was bored watching her.

It was a beautiful summer morning and the park’s enticing jungle gym beckoned. “Come on, let’s go down to the playground, Maggie!” She really didn’t have a choice as I led her by the hand away from her group of dolls and down the fenced path to excitement.

I climbed to the top of the jungle gym. Its metal bars hot from the morning sun. Maggie stood at the bottom and stared at me. “Climb up!” I insisted. “I’m scared,” she muttered in her shy breathy voice. “I got ya, don’t worry,” I coaxed. She climbed the intimidating metal structure very slowly and almost made it to the last rung. Then her shoe slipped and she tumbled all the way to the bottom, landing with a thud on the cement. I scrambled down the bars and held her head in my hands.

“Are you OK?” Her eyes opened and then shut, a pool of blood dripped out from under her dark locks onto my hands.

“I’ll get help, Maggie! Don’t move!” 

I ran home at lightning speed and told my mom. She called an ambulance. A few minutes later the ambulance arrived at the playground. We ran down the path and met them there. My mom told me later that the paramedics said if it wasn’t for my quick thinking Maggie could have died.

I learned a deeper love that day than the crush I had on little Maggie. A love which involved responsibility and remaining calm. 

Maggie came home with a big white bandage on her head and many stitches. I knew right then and there I wanted to marry this girl. There is an old Chinese proverb: “If you save somebody’s life, you are responsible for them forever.” I wanted to be her forever hero, but unfortunately she and her family moved away shortly thereafter.

That year seemed to find me in situations that required me to put my love into action. My five-year-old brother was riding his two-wheeler down the street while I followed him on my bike. He hit a raised part of the sidewalk and flew off the front of his bike, headlong onto the pavement. I plowed into him from behind and skinned my knees. My heart raced as he lay on the sidewalk in great pain. I kneeled next to him and he looked up at me before his eyes started rolling into the back of his head. His chin bone protruded with blood, the flesh torn clean off from the accident.

Once again I found myself running for help, back to my house. A repeat of the ambulance, but this time a long ride in it with my mom and brother. I was told that had I not acted as quickly as I did, it could have been far worse. Eighteen stitches later, and a beauty of a scar to show for it, he was OK. The love I had for my pesky little brother, whom I always teased, changed that day to a strong brotherly love that continued through our growing-up years. I was starting to understand that loving someone meant a whole lot more than my nine-year-old self thought it meant. That summer I learned not to take people for granted. I learned that anything can happen to remove them from my life.

I have given and received so much love in my life:

  • My father consoling me when I was beside myself over a breakup with my girlfriend in my 20s.
  • My father coming to my aid when I was almost killed.
  • A loving spouse.
  • Two beautiful sons.
  • My son helping me out when I needed it most.
  • Parents who helped me numerous times, financially and emotionally.
  • The countless times I cleaned up my spouse’s chemo-induced vomit in the middle of the night.
  • A spouse who was dying of cancer but insisted on cooking Thanksgiving dinner a week prior to passing away.
  • Keeping my spouse alive in heart 30 years after saying goodbye.
  • Changing my kids’ diapers and giving them their bottles in the middle of the night when I had to be up for work in a few hours.
  • Staying with my girlfriend when she needed me, even when I was tired or sick.
  • Cleaning my 20-something-year-old-son’s room when he decided to be lazy just so he could come home from work to a clean room, and I could see the look on his face.
  • Continuing to cook for my son even though he insulted my hamburgers by calling them “hockey pucks” because they were so burned and tough.
  • Good friends coming to my rescue when I least expected it.

Too much to even list here, but there is so much more.

My 61-year-old self has learned that love is more than romance, more than sexual desire, more than flowers, candy and hearts.

Love is sacrifice and in the words of my wise father, “I’ll tell you what love is, it’s what your mother and I have … commitment, staying together when things get rough.”

60+ years of life experience taught me that. It’s the kind of love that transcends decades, even in death.

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