Diane Ackerman said, "Everyone admits that love is wonderful
and necessary, yet no one agrees on just what it is." Over
the years, I have been learning what it is.
When I first got married, I wanted to show my love to my new
wife. I was drawn to romantic stories like one from the time
of Oliver Cromwell in England where a young soldier had been
tried in military court and sentenced to death. He was to be
shot at the "ringing of the curfew bell." His fiancée
climbed up into the bell tower. Several hours before curfew
time and tied herself to bell's huge clapper. At curfew
time, when only muted sounds came out of the bell tower,
Cromwell demanded to know why the bell was not ringing. His
soldiers went to investigate and found the young woman cut
and bleeding from being knocked back and forth against the
great bell. They brought her down, and, the story goes,
Cromwell was so impressed with her willingness to suffer in
this way on behalf of someone she loved that he dismissed
the soldier saying, "Curfew shall not ring tonight."
That must be love, I thought! That was the kind of
commitment I needed to make! I wanted to give my all. To tie
myself to the bell for her. To die, if necessary, for her.
To sacrifice myself on the altar of true love! I wanted her
to know that I’d give it all up for her.
But she never wanted me to die for her. Never! Clean the
toilets, maybe, but never die. My commitment was to be shown
in household chores! (I read that an exhaustive study showed
that no woman ever shot her husband while he was doing
dishes. What a relief. Washing dishes may lack inspiration,
but at least it's safe...)
I was never called upon to tie myself to the bell. But I was
still called upon to show my love - in little ways, mostly.
I was needed to comfort her before we were married when the
doctor told her she could never have children…to hold her
hand and tell her I wanted her more than I wanted a family.
I was called upon to sit by her hospital bed after surgery
and encourage her.
I was called upon to hold her after her father died and let
I was also called upon to carve out alone time with her as
often as possible and to make sure my plans included her as
well as me.
I was never needed to prove my undying love through a
glorious act of self-sacrifice. It was something I was
required to do in little ways, through one small act of
kindness at a time.
And that, I've learned, is love.