“True love will never fade,” according to the first song on Mark Knopfler’s album “Kill to Get Crimson.” He might know — he did write the music for one of the most romantic films ever made. In The Princess Bride even death cannot stop true love.
Which is, of course, a truism. Many things might admit impediments to true love but death is not one of them. Two images define my childhood understanding of my parents’ relationship. One is my father laying his head in my mother’s lap while they watched TV. She would comb his hair, sometimes for an hour.
On another occasion, he brought her a chair from the dining room to the kitchen. A small thing you might think but it wasn’t. My mother loved to talk on the phone — she would spend an evening leaning against the kitchen counter where the old black phone sat and talk to neighbours and friends.
Sometimes she stayed there so long her legs would get tired. But not if my dad was at home. He would see her there — and really, he wished she didn’t talk for so long but would never say a word. He would go get a chair and bring it to her.
Simple stuff, right. But true love is built on simple stuff, the pleasure of another’s company, the intake of breath when you see the object of your desire. Acts of consideration that demand a level of intimacy where you know your love’s needs even before they do. These are the bricks of true love.
And death will not fade it. When my father died, a part of my mother simply went away. This was not grief, this was deeper than grief. She had not lost a husband; she had lost the essence of love. She still had her children and her friends but she didn’t have him. Except in memory.
True love can never fade — but ordinary love fades all the time. I know, I’ve lost loves before or stopped loving them enough to continue to be kind or faithful or generous or all the other things true love demands.
But those moments of true love that exist in every relationship long or short; they remain. They are brighter, richer, more resonant now than they were when I experienced them. My moments, days, years of true love remain with me and make me better, I hope, as a friend/lover/husband.
The bricks of true love make a stronger life.
But that’s ten minutes.