True Love

Have you thought about love; about loving someone? I don’t think you can consider, in this context, infatuation, sexual love – that love at first sight love, that “let’s move in together and spend all day in bed” love. In that type you don’t see anything but your lover so there’s no differentiation. But love for your daughter, on the other hand, can be analyzed, turned over in your mind, inspected, probed. I tried doing this the other day as I sat watching her play. She was washing her hands and then asked for her toothbrush and would put some water on it, stick it in her mouth, then attempt to spit out the water. Over and over. Looking at me; knowing I was watching her but not engaging me. So I could watch. And I really felt the kind of love that would cause me to risk my life for her without the slightest hesitation – at least it felt that way. As I have not been in that situation I cannot say with certainty what I would do. But it felt like that. And I started pondering why I love her like that. If I watched anyone else doing what she was doing, I think there would be mild to extreme revulsion. I mean spitting – even attempted and failed spitting – is not one of the finer things in life. But from her it was absolutely endearing.

Do I love her for the same reason I love ice cream or sex; because she gives me pleasure and gets my endorphins in overdrive? While I may tolerate bad sex, bad ice cream is definitely an “I’ll pass, thank you” and even when my daughter is causing all kinds of trouble and grief I still love her. I may not be able to sit and analyze that love at that moment but it is still there. But would I love her if she never gave me pleasure – if she never hugged me spontaneously or blurted out “I love you too and so much”? How is an autistic child different from an infant – how would I react to a child who remained an infant for her entire life – never hugging, interacting &c.? I think that when my daughter was an infant and non-responsive to me as a person and as her father, I was looking forward to the day when she would be. I loved her but a relationship – any relationship – must change to be tolerable. Even now, I get frustrated at times when she won’t eat by herself even though she can and even though I used to always enjoy feeding her and I look forward to the day when I don’t have to spoon feed her anymore.

Maybe it’s a guy thing but I absolutely hated the question, “Why do you love me?” It may be because it was always asked when there was something wrong with the relationship and I never really had an answer other than “I don’t think I do love you. I’m with you because I don’t have the guts to leave.” I think what they were looking for was a list of reasons like: I find you attractive (although that could never be first without being shallow), we have fun together, … I actually am having trouble now making up answers because they all seem so ridiculous. Why do I love you? I just do. It’s irrational. You can’t analyze love. Love is something that happens to you. I can list things that I like or dislike about you but I can’t say why I love you. Love is an emotion and Jung said that emotions happen to you. But is that real love? Is love really out of our control? Can’t I choose to love? Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor.” That’s an active command not a passive one. I guess the answer to that horrid question is, ideally, “I choose to love you despite your faults and problems and issues. I choose to love you even when I don’t like you.” I wonder how that would have gone over? But this love is no longer an emotion; it is a conscious choice along the lines of buying a new blender or renting a movie. Not all that romantic anymore. But isn’t that exactly the love I have for my daughter? It’s not romantic, it persists when she is fussing and refusing to eat her dinner. I can get the warm fuzzies of an emotional love when she is being cute and adorable but the love remains in the midst of a battle of the wills. The love is constant while the endorphin response varies.

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