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Marty's "Living life in chapters" A self development blog: What is Love?

Marty's "Living life in chapters" A self development blog

Sunday, January 02, 2011

What is Love?

So here I go again, writing down thoughts as I go along in a somewhat creative fashion. 

My experience of reading about the subject of "Love" and hearing others speak of it have helped me to come to my conclusions here.

The word "Love" is powerful and can create a plethora of reactions, some of which can be unexpected. It can also create an enormous amount of mis-understanding. 
Doing a little research on the subject brings up a lot of links to "finding love" or "finding a life partner". It's a word that seems to be very much linked to "lust" which is really quite something different. 

The word has many meaning in different languages. A good example of this is the various in Greek
Based on this example and also referring to a description I once heard at the wedding of some friends I see it as this: 

Love as in friendship. The joy of having a friend or friends that we enjoy the company of and communicate effectively. It would be the sort of love that we give freely in this way by not only reading blogs, but commenting upon them and thereby communicating. Establishing a link in common thought. 

Love as in respect. This is having a positive regard for another person and  respecting their situation and point of view. It would be to allow a person some freedom to speak and act as they see fit. 

Love in the physical sense. This seems to me to be the common understanding of what love is. It refers to the love combined with sexual attraction and the physical act of sex. This is where mis-understanding can come in. Stating "I love you" in this case to a friend or somebody you know not particularly well may infer that you are expressing an emotional and physical bonding that may not be wanted. I'm suggesting that it may not necessarily be the case. 

As far as long term relationships are concerned, I remember the minister at the wedding I attended suggesting that achieving 2 out of the 3 mentioned above is a good basis for a lasting marriage. 

Close friendships do indeed involve Love without necessarily involving the physical aspect. 

I wrote about the closest friend I ever had in my life a few years ago. Writing about it at that time touched many people and encouraged a new openness between folk in the social network blogsphere I was involved with at that time. Many chose to share their experiences. I believe it was a liberating experience and allowed many to clear some emotional clutter in their lives. 

I'm going to share it again today (with some minor updates) All writing is, I believe, a work in progress. 

"I heard the telephone ring in the hallway of my parents bungalow. Mother answered the phone and it was Michael. All I heard her say down that phone was “oh no. uh no. oh no!” I started crying. Mother didn’t need to tell me. My intuition told me what had happened.
During the early 1970’s, my aunt took the lease of a cliff top kiosk at Foreness Bay, in Cliftonville, Margate. My parents also got involved in running this little business selling sandwiches, hot drinks, ice creams etc. It was a very popular spot in those days. For me, roughly 9 years old, this kiosk gave me the opportunity for wonderful and adventurous summers spent on the beach building sandcastles and “tide fight” barriers. It was also an opportunity for me to make new friends with other children on the beach.

That first summer I made friends with Mark and we became quite good friends. Mark had another friend, Paul, and we were duly introduced. Paul was not able to run around splashing in the surf as we did, for Paul was a fragile child born with a deformed heart. He spent most of his time sat on a sun lounger watching everyone else. Paul could walk a little, but would get out of breath very quickly. Paul’s mother Joy was also disabled, so Paul’s father Michael cared for them both whilst also running a taxi cab part time. At first, I didn’t think Michael was Paul’s father because Paul called his father by his Christian name. I discovered the reason for this in time. Joy would call out for Michael very frequently because of her needs and as a result, Paul never learned to call his father “Daddy”. This wasn’t at all sad. It was in fact rather endearing. I’d describe Michael as a jolly fellow and seemed to have bundles of energy. He was incredibly fit and went swimming in the sea every morning of the year including Christmas day! Paul’s fragile condition meant that he was never going to live into adulthood, so Michael crammed in as much as he could into Paul’s short life.

The 3 of us lads became firm friends. Mark and I spent a lot of exploring the beach, however, we would always ensure that we spent quality time with Paul. We would design elaborate games that Paul could play with us. This would involve flints and stones collected from the beach that we would throw at targets chalked onto the promenade. Michael would keep us fed with endless cold drinks and slices of cake. Sometimes we would all get the treat of an ice cream. Michael would always stop as the kiosk either on his way to the beach or on the way back, so my parents got to know him too. They were full of admiration for this man and his energy. Mother described him as a saint.

One particular summers day, Michael asked Mark and myself if we would like to go to the cinema with Paul. The film being shown at the cinema was “Bedknobs and Broomsticks”. This was the first of many trips to see movies. The friendship between Paul and I became much stronger. In fact I began to spend Saturdays in the winter round at Paul’s house. Paul introduced me to the wonders of Enid Blyton’s stories. We would sometimes spend an hour or two together reading “Secret Sevens” and “Famous Fives”. We would then discuss and grumble “Why can’t we have adventures like Julian, Dick, Anne George and Timmy?” such was our innocence. Building Airfix models was another firm favourite. We saw less of Mark after a while because he went off to boarding school. I guess this brought Paul and I much closer as friends. We would watch our favourite TV programme at the time “Basil Brush”. We were very big fans.
Another movie we went to see was the James Bond thriller “Live and Let Die”. This was my first experience of the Bond movies and I was hooked straight away. Michael brought the album of the theme music for Paul. We would listen to this constantly. It makes me smile now as I remember that Paul struggled to keep up singing along to the fast bit in Paul McCartneys song “Live and Let Die”.

My sister got married in 1972. Paul and Michael were invited along as company for me that day. Paul was a couple of years older than me but because of his condition, he was of small stature. That did make us very compatible as friends. In 1975, Paul reached 14 years old. Michael explained to me in November of that year (Paul’s birthday) that he would be going up to a top London hospital to have an operation. This, if successful would extend Paul’s life by maybe a couple more years. Although I knew Paul’s would not live for long, I guess it all seemed a long way away, as things did at that age. I guess I just couldn’t imagine, or dare not imagine what it would be like for Paul to not be around any more. Michael told me that as soon as Paul was fit enough to come out of hospital, he was going to treat us both by taking us to the Theatre in London to see a production of Peter Pan. This would likely be in January 1976. So I said farewell to Paul and began to consider what could happen. Paul’s chance of survival, if I remember correctly for this operation was 50/50. I can also remember night times trying to sleep with my mind full of imagination and anxiety. I started to fantasise what it would be like and how I would feel if Paul were not to survive. I guess this was typical of my vivid imagination. I’d never experienced any sort of trauma at that time in my life and I wondered what it would feel like. I'd certainly not experienced bereavement.

Then came that day of the phone call. Shortly after Paul’s operation, he had developed a blood clot that ran to his heart. Apparently he never regained consciousness. I cried as my parents came into our hallway and we all hugged. This all happened on a school day for me. Mother decided it would be best for me to go rather than mope around the house. I remember mixing with the other lads in the school yard before the whistle was blown, but I just felt completely detached from everyone and I was close to tears. Crying in front of your peers at age 12 was just not done, particularly in the hard nose days of the 1970’s. I disappeared down a side alley by a class room and sobbed my heart out. I didn't care about lining up for school assembly. Getting in trouble for bunking away from class was nothing compared with the grief I felt right then. One of my school pals had spotted that I was upset and went to find a teacher. This sports master came round to see me and was very kind. He invited me into a classroom to talk. Eventually, he encouraged to join the rest of the school for assembly. In those days we had large hymn sheets hanging on the walls that looked like Biblical scrolls. As the school band played I tried to sing but could not see the words because of the tears flooding my eyes. Somehow I got through that school day.

It was many, many months before Michael and I had the courage to see each other. I didn’t go to Paul’s funeral. In fact it was a long time before my mother told me. By a quirk of fate, Paul’s funeral was on 5th February 1976, my birthday. I remember wondering why mother went out that afternoon but did not say why. She simply did not want to spoil my birthday. When I finally saw Michael, he brought round Paul’s train set to give to me. I still have that train set in the pewter covered wooden box my loft, buried under all the other bric a brac that I’ve hoarded over the years.
I did tentatively keep in touch with Michael over the years but to a large extent I drifted away from the sadness of loss. Paul’s mother died a few years later. I believe this was pretty much of a broken heart.

Paul is buried in a wonderful little church on the hill in the picturesque seaside village of Kingsdown Nr. Deal. It’s a beautiful and peaceful place. Michael told me he used to live in Kingsdown, hence his choice to have Paul buried there. It was not until 1996 when my daughter was stillborn that I finally summoned the courage to visit Paul’s grave. The grief and bereavement was connected. It brought back all the pain I'd put away for so long.
Michael ensured that Paul lived his life full of joy and fun. Paul was to me, a real Peter Pan because he never grew up. He has remained that innocent child, never exposed to the cynical adult world. I loved Paul deeply. He was my soul mate. We never ever argued in all the time I knew him. We had a perfect friendship. I can’t describe it any other way."

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