One of my favorite stories I remember hearing while growing up is how my parents began dating. They were both Freshmen in high school and my mom was a letter girl and my dad played football. I know this story starts out so All American you want to be sick now but fret not, the mob tactics and bribery come later.
At the high school they both attended in Fremont, it was only the seniors who got lockers on the patio. This was the place to be apparently, and both my parents had older sisters who were seniors. My dad was lucky enough to have a sister who was willing to share her locker with him, and it was conveniently located right next to my mom's older sister Yvonne. At this point, according to my father side of the story, he was already a smitten kitten. He had spied my mom painting some football poster in the hallways one day and basically instantly fell in love with her and her "long, luxurious hair". Yes those were his words, and no he was not raised by parents who wrote romance novels or scripts for shampoo commercials. In his infinite quest to get my mom to go out with him, my dad offered to buy his sister Martha a new skirt if she would put in a good word for him with Yvonne. Apparently the fact that my dad told Yvonne daily, "You know your locker doesn't lock" hadn't gotten him very far. Go Figure.
When I ask my mom about it, she's not even sure Martha ever did put in a good word with Yvonne, or if she did, whether Yvonne ever passed on that good word. What she distinctly remembers is all his junior high friends (aw...junior high...they were such babies!) used to come up to her with newspaper clippings about him and his football prowess. Apparently everyone was trying to mack on my mom on my dad's behalf. He was working all angles. Now, whether my dad had orchestrated this or not is still debatable, but for my mom who views humility (and vaccuum lines on carpet) right up there next to Godliness, this was not doing the trick. But something about the whole sitaution did strike my mom. I mean, it must have, right? They dated for the next 8 years -- through high school, when my dad went to college in New Mexico, when he transferred to college in Hawaii. Through everything. When he was drafted to the Detroit Lions in 1976 and another big move was on the horizon, they finally decided to get hitched. To this day, even though my dad passed away in 1999, he is still the love of my mom's life.
"So what the heck was it?" I asked her this afternoon, "What made you finally go out with dad?" And do you know what her answer was? What it was that made my mom love him to begin with, and love him to this day:
"He was relentless."
That's it. I'm sure in the end it helped that it wasn't like creepy-stalker- weirdo relentless, and that he actually called her and was actually nice to her -- but on a day like today, when candied "I Love You's", predictable floral arrangements, and dinner reservations abound - I am reminded of how much better real love is. Love that cannot be expressed by Hallmark. As far as I'm concerned very few relationships hold a candle to the kind of love my parents had. It's funny, because looking back, none of those material love-markers were really around when I was growing up. My dad was never the big romancer guy. I mean he was big, and a guy, but that's really where the similarities end. He rarely brought home flowers, my mother was never dripping in jewels representing birthdays past, and if there was chocolate around it was more likely that my mom had baked something delicious than my dad stopping to pick up some sweets for his sweet. But as a child even, I never had any doubt that my parents loved each other. Because none of those things are what love is about.
I think that when it came to my mom, there was nothing that my dad wouldn't do for her, and I know for a fact that the feeling was mutual on my mom's end. That's just the kind of people they were. To me, to everyone, but especially to each other. When it comes to really loving someone, I think both parties in any relationship would agree there is really only one thing you ever want your significant other to do for you. And its not bring you flowers, or buy you diamonds. It's not buy a stuffed animal, or pay for an expensive dinner. Those things are nice, but they sure don't make you feel comforted. It's about being relentless. It's about knowing that the list of things you would do for that person begins and ends with 'anything'.