Issue 6

Unconditional Love


                Love is a slippery little eel of a concept.  The problem with love is that as soon as you begin to analyze it, it appears to stop being love.  I call this the Humility Effect, after the fact that as soon as you know that you are humble, you no longer are.  With love, for example, if I buy my wife flowers, it makes her happy, which makes me happy.  So really I bought her flowers not because of some romantic altruistic love but because I'm just a selfish SOB who really wants to make himself happy.

                Unconditional love is even trickier.  This is the I-Love-You-even-if-you-turn-out- to-be-an-axe-murderer kind of love.  My dog has this kind of love.  Dioge doesn't love me just because I feed her.  We tested this the night both Rebecca and I thought the other had fed her and she didn't eat at all.  If anything, she snuggled all that much closer with all that much more affection.  Interestingly, some men and women attempt this strategy of lover abuse intentionally in the dating scene, with surprising success.

                My unconditional love for Rebecca was recently tested when she failed to show up for dinner one night.  My son Skylar can get on my nerves after a few hours too, and Rebecca, when she left the house that morning, had the glazed look of a convict seeing freedom for the first time in years.  I decided to act selfishly, buying her favorite fish, fresh vegetables, and cut flowers because I knew they would make her happy which would make me happy.  I was a little late in getting dinner started, but apparently not late enough.  I pulled the fish out of the oven, looking out the window every fifteen seconds to see if she had pulled up yet.

                Time is elastic.  If you're late for a plane, time goes by instantly.  But if you arrive that hour early you're supposed to, time lets you wait and savor every excruciating and boring detail.  I watched the time stretch like taffy into forty-five minutes.  Up to this point, I had decided that dinner was already cold so I might as well wait.  A half-hour later my stomach didn't care if I ate alone or not.  But in my heart it just seemed wrong to eat without her since I would have never put together a romantic spread like this for myself.  (I haven't yet figured out how to be selfish enough to make myself happy, which of course would make me happy.)

                Then I got to thinking.  If I didn't eat now, then Rebecca would feel terrible that I hadn't eaten because of her.  Despite my best crack at remaining unconditional, this idea was becoming attractive.  But it didn't really matter; if I ate I was selfish and if I didn't eat I was selfish.  Either way, I was selfish.  Such is the mystery of love.

                I didn't want to get into a fight as soon as she walked in, so I left a note taped to the door, hoping that it would take care of everything: "Being late is it's own punishment."  Then I sat back down at the table to contemplate my ruined meal.  "What should I do?" I asked Skylar as I bounced him on my knee.

                At this, Skylar proceeded to projectile vomit all over me.  I held him securely as he heaved several times, afraid that my reflexes might try to launch him across the room so I could escape the smell.  Finally he stopped.  He shook in my arms.  I stripped off my pants with one hand, not wanting to create a snail trail across the house, then carried him gently to the bathroom, where we both climbed into the tub.

                As I stripped Skylar down and cleaned him off, I realized what unconditional love really is: it has no conditions.  It doesn't whine about how much trouble it is going through.  It doesn't demand that things be made up for later.  And it doesn't demand that the gift-debt be passed on to someone else.  It is a gift, freely given, no strings attached.

                I'm always amazed at what a good puke can do for the soul.  One minute you're praying to God to just take you and end it all and the next you're feeling as frisky as a cat in a field full of Grade-A catnip.  Skylar laughed and splashed, and soon I was laughing and splashing too.  I knew I still had a frightful mess to take care of, but what the heck.  Forty-five minutes zoomed by in a flash.  Then we got out of the tub, and I laid Skylar down for a nap to recover from his forgotten trauma.  The table cleaned up in no time, and I then remembered to rip my note off the front door just in time to see Rebecca drive up.  Her face was aglow with the magic of her day of freedom.  "Sorry I didn't call," she said sheepishly, knowing full well that she had no good excuse.  "I brought you a present."

                Selfish woman.  She knows I love surprises.


Home ] Up ] Issue 7: The Art of Being Cheap ]