Jean Marie Gunner

Jean Marie Gunner
We are all basically good.

Monday, August 27, 2012

In Search of True Love (and a Really Decent Beer)


It is daring to go it alone.  It is also fun and liberating and opens up space to meet others and to meet ourselves as well. 
After a full day of biking, cleaning and writing this past Saturday evening, I perched myself upon the top step of my back door stairs, caught a chance wave from my neighbor Jeff, and emptied my mind of the contents of the day.  As a breeze lifted some stray ends of my hair, I decided to do what I do when out of town by myself -- go it alone.  I got in my car to leave my quiet Mayberry of a Village and to have a drink and to dine in the good company of one.  I headed downtown to Canalside and briefly listened to a couple sing an Irish ballad outside the Irish Festival perimeter.  I then meandered down the historic cobblestone of the Canalside District and stared for a moment in silent wonder at the beauty before me -- Buffalo alive and bustling with people. The lights magically twinkling on the still water, the boats, the people, the aliveness of the place.  In that moment, I felt true wonderment.  I could have been standing in any other city in the world, Venice, Chicago, Boston, but I was in my home town.  It was beautiful.

I headed into the military museum and lo and behold a lounge had magically appeared since my last visit to this area in the spring.  Discovering that the restaurant had been there since May and realizing they had a good selection of microbrews on draft from which to choose, I promptly ordered an amber ale and struck up a conversation with two women.  We shared some relaxed conversation; they were both fine, friendly women interested in some of the same things as me like inspired places to go in our city with a good solid local touch.  Where can one go but Buffalo and find such easy conversation and immediate connection within five minutes?

While driving downtown, I had an idea in mind.  I want to go in search of true love, this evening and for the rest of my life.  I would begin by noticing the world and people around me, and if I felt I had an opening, I would ask people their view on this subject and harvest their thoughts and feelings.  I would be a silent witness to this very topic as I move through my life.  This evening would be as good of a place to start as any.

The topic of True Love I guessed would be defined by qualities such as, connection, relationship dynamics, the forces that bring people together, the why and how of worlds colliding, the space between two people and how they navigate that short distance. Such simple but meaningful things as a casual touch or protective posture.
This evening, I met a lovely couple in their early forties from Orchard Park who had ordered a Chardonnay and Grand Marnier to go in plastic tumblers but instead we easily struck up an hour long conversation so their drinks remained in their glasses.  As destiny would have it, we intersected each other’s worlds and they shared with me that they were celebrating 17 years of  marriage.  What better place to start my research than with a couple out on a date night away from the children in celebration of their marriage and love.  I told them about my research and asked them their thoughts and feelings on true love. 

Right away without a second thought, the husband chimed in and said true love is doing what the other person wants to do even when you may not want to.  His wife thought for a second or two more and delivered a more deliberated response about sticking with it (love that is) over the long haul, even when it isn’t easy or pretty, and that true love for her has to do with the great dad that her husband is to her children. I felt that it was the collective combination of sacrifice and loyalty that kept this couple returning over and over again to their love.  And parenting was central in their union.

After some chit chat about work, the husband circled back to the topic of true love and it seemed that for him this question, this emotion, this state of being orbited around family and being able to “go home.”  His question to me was about my parents’ status, if they were living, still married and occupying the family home.  I answered yes to all of these questions.  And, that seemed to say it all for him, about love, life, home, and connection to place.  In his mind, I could still “go home,” my base, where I grew up, from whence I came.  For me though, and possibly I say this out of sense of abundance (since I still do have my childhood home available for me to walk into), my home is where I am planted at any one moment and isn't about my childhood home any longer.  I love the home I have made for my children in "Mayberry" since my divorce years ago but realized only recently that I do not feel as much attachment as I thought to our house, and I feel that I could let go if need be, if circumstances required.   

My newfound friends chatted on about parenting and raising our kids with the values we find important and if we are actually instilling in them a sense of right and wrong in this very busy, digitally-driven, electronic, on-the-go-world. Again, we arrived at the conclusion, and maybe this was only the alcohol relaxing us into complacency, that the mere mention of the words, “right values,” says it all, that it indicates we are good parents, and we really do give a darn and will stop at nothing to continue exerting ourselves to do the right thing by our children.  We swallowed our last sip of our drinks, and I asked them to walk me to my car since the late summer sun had long since dipped beneath the Canadian horizon.  I gave them each a warm embrace for escorting me safe and sound to my car and headed home to Mayberry. 

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