It starts with my nephew, who is one of the kindest and most interesting people you could ever meet.
He is a person motivated almost entirely by love. He has worked since before his adult life even started with mentally or emotionally disadvantaged children. He married within the last twelve months, a beautiful girl with significant health challenges they now go through together. He met her out on one his many, many world travels: he has worked for years on the side for an airline to finance these voyages.
For love of children. For love of a girl. For love of travel, learning, and people everywhere. For love.
Christmas Eve of last year, he and I spoke about the girl. He wanted to propose on Christmas, but he was being counseled to wait. I was the only adult in the family who counseled otherwise.
“If you love her, do not wait. Follow your heart. Let love be urgent.”
I knew her health history. It is not exaggeration to say she is at risk of leaving this world at any time. Never leave love treading in the waters of regret.
He did propose the next day. She accepted. They are married now, and I know no two people happier, in spite of the reality of her health struggle.
For years I watched girls try (mostly unsuccessfully) to get his attention. In a room full of people, he would always talk to everyone with the same level of genuine interest, but never for long. He would then move on to other people.
To my eyes, he was a great friend to all, but a close friend to almost nobody. The exact opposite of someone like me, who would rather have one real, emotionally connected conversation than dozens of light touches encompassing every single person in the room. Yet, loving as he was, for that brief time, people would feel the connection.
As a natural consequence of who he was and is, he has thousands of friends. I have maybe six.
When I heard he was actually seriously dating someone, and when he spoke to me last Christmas Eve about her, I was dying to see what kind of girl had finally captured that roaming heart. It turns out, she’s pretty much a female version of him: she fairly radiates joy, and is instantly lovable to anyone who meets her.
She too, had gone years with people asking “when are you going to meet someone?” Always answering: “Don’t worry about it. I’ll know when I’ve met someone good enough.” But she never did, until he came along. Friends fixed them up, thinking they’d be perfect for each other.
They were and are.
I often think about my nephew when I’m having online exchanges. I’ll start a conversation with someone, and want it to be meaningful. However, many of the people I talk to are like my nephew: a few words to everyone, no real time to spend on anyone, unless it’s someone really special. You feel connected briefly, then that person moves on.
In addition, it came up recently with two different online acquaintances that they are tired of being asked the question “When are you going to meet someone?” or being told “You just haven’t met anyone good enough” when they say they have no real interest in dating.
I know people are trying to be kind in saying things like that, but it can tiresome to people hearing it. If people aren’t interested in dating, they aren’t. They don’t need advice that is essentially “yes, but you should date people you aren’t comfortable with or don’t like that much because it’s what we do” like life was some kind of “it’s what we do” GEICO commercial.
Here is the other realization I had. For me a blog post – such as this one – is frequently a continuation of a conversation I started having online with someone who essentially walked off. To talk to other people.
I wasn’t done; but they were, and conversations are voluntary.
Fortunately, we have these things called blogs, and they are there for all the things we didn’t get the chance to say in real life.
I’m looking forward to seeing my nephew and his wife this Christmas Eve. I’m sure we won’t talk much, but they will be a joy to observe, along with all my other myriad family members. Unlike the 50 plus people we spend Thanksgiving with, Christmas Eve is usually a more intimate group of 20 people or so: my wife’s mother, her kids, their spouses, her grandkids, their spouses, and her great grandkids. The great grandkids all (so far) belong to my family.
I’ve learned to be happy about love wherever I find it. Sometimes we reach for connections we don’t quite make in the same way as the people we’re connecting to, but that’s okay.
Love is love, and it’s just as good as a spice as it is a meal.