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The One You Love

AN-valentinesWe all know that Valentine’s Day was created by the evil corporations to sell chocolates, while getting men in trouble for not being sufficiently thoughtful, and stereotyping women as shallow creatures who determine the value of their relationships based on meaningless gestures. Anyone with half a brain should therefore hate what February 14th represents.

Unfortunately, it’s been well-established that I’m largely brainless.

For all the commercialism, and all the misguided imagery, Valentine’s Day is still one occasion that tries to compel people in relationships to appreciate the one they’re with. And that’s not a bad thing.

I’ve confessed before that I’m a romantic. Perhaps this is because I’ve personally witnessed two great romances in my life; my grandparents‘, and my parents‘. My resulting perspective on love has definitely played out in my writing –– it’s already been conceded that Defense Command is a twenty-novel love story –– and it has led me to a very simple definition of love.

This idea was articulated in The Mars Convention, when two Admirals who spent years fighting each other sat down over a drink, and discovered how much they had in common. In one exchange, the supposed-villain revealed to the supposed-hero what love is:

“Alright, you’ll have to go with me on this, but the war taught me the definition of love.”

I think my eyebrows went up, and I wasn’t sure if he was serious –– seemed an odd claim to be coming from my enemy counterpart. He actually looked a little sheepish for even having mentioned it, but alcohol was streamlining the conversation.

And, as it turned out, he was on to something.

“If you had forty minutes left to live, and you could only see one person in the whole universe, who would it be?”

When he first said it, the question didn’t strike me as profound. Then I realized the answer ––  the only possible answer, in spite of all the people I cared about. One last face to see, one last voice to hear…

“That’s who you love,” he said simply.

Perhaps its macabre to say, but one of the gifts my grandfather –– my chief –– gave me was the chance to be part of his final days. I was young and it was painful, but the experience stripped away any superficial notions about a lot of things, including the fundamentals of a relationship. Though he loved his children dearly –– was and is a part of their lives, even now –– in his last moments, as he clutched at the remaining scraps of his memory, he found peace alone with my grandmother.

The woman he chose –– the one with whom he built a life, and a family.

There could be no doubt that he loved her, and perhaps, that he loves her still. She loved him too, despite all the grief brought on by his Alzheimer’s. They were together at his end, and that was a great gift to him.

Thus, my definition of love –– based not on whether a person can irritate you, make your heart flutter, or cause your pupils to dilate… but on whether being with them is so fundamental to your existence that they would be the person you spent your final moments with, if you got to choose.

That choice, by the way, would be a great privilege –– many people never get the opportunity to say goodbye. Cynical though I can be, I never scoff at the notion of a dying soldier pleading: “Tell my wife I love her.” My grandfather got to do that; countless people do not.

But where does this weighty notion of love leave Valentine’s Day? Shouldn’t it irk me that the occasion is so superficial, and commercial? Not really.

Valentine’s Day can’t create love –– can’t turn ‘just anyone’ into that person you want to be with on your final day –– but when you’ve found that person, it can certainly be a fun chance to embarrass them, get a worthy eye-roll, and give them reason to smile. Those opportunities aren’t nearly as common as they should be –– we’re human and life isn’t simple, so we get frustrated, angry, tired, grumpy, despondent, anxious, and more. That being the case, if evil corporations are going to work so hard to force us to spend a day showing our love for each other, we might as well just play along.

As long as we don’t mistake superficial –– but sometimes meaningful –– gestures as being more significant than they are, I say have fun today. Indulge in the corny romance, dance around your place until you trip over something, eat way too much unhealthy chocolate that may not actually taste good, and try to remember that rose petals clog vacuum cleaners.

Or maybe just share a knowing gaze, and smile. Whatever works for you.

Either way, embrace the chance, make it count, and make it fun. When you really love someone, it’s hard for that to go wrong. Just to set the tone, I’ve embedded below a selection of appropriately swoony videos for inspiration.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Go make lovable fools of yourselves!

Because I am generally Mr. Darcy:

Before she was famous for possible telephone use:

My favorite modern screen love story begins:

And just because it’s an Olympic time of year: