What's Love Got to Do With It? Everything

My grandparents George and Florence Hagler, pictured here, were married for 65 years until Mrs. Hagler died in 2002.

It is a simple request in a letter from a reader: "I want you to write about true love. Today's youngsters should know what is true love."

Surely I ought to know by now. I have seen enough movies filled with memorable Hollywood one-liners that roll off the tongue and linger like the scent of lilies:

"You had me at hello."

"You make me want to be a better man."

"Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time."

I have felt it in the pit of my stomach, known love's ache as a teenager, discovered how it can make one sometimes lose their appetite.

Or was that indigestion?

Whatever true love is, I have come to see it as an often elusive and yet longed for and sought after entity, one that far too often is reduced to a fleeting emotion, or some material gift given to convey love's sentiment.

I am admittedly a sentimental, a sucker for a love story. "Love & Basketball" and "Love Jones" sit prominently among my collection of favorite DVDs on my shelf, right next to "The Godfather," "In Too Deep" and "Gladiator."

There's something about a love story. Women seem especially wed to them. The notion of it--of some knight in shining armour someday riding into her life and carrying her off to happily-forever-after is a longed for destiny from the first time they read Cinderella or Snow White.

But in this world, there are no enchanted forests, magical glass slippers or fairy god mothers, and few knights in shining armour, or princesses, for that matter. But I have learned that this all depends on the eye of the beholder.

I see couples hugged up in coffee shops and restaurants, walking dreamily hand-in-hand, even in the cold, strolling down the avenue, basking in the rays of love. Or is it lust?

At the wedding of a former student one summer not long ago, she stood aglow, adorned in a white gown as she and her beau tied the knot in a romantic ceremony beneath a blue sky--so clearly in love.

And yet, sitting there, I understood that their love, like all loves, would be tested by the winds of life and by storms, by the inevitable hurts, misunderstandings, trespasses and challenges that are part of the fallible experience of human relationship; that forgiveness, sorrows, tears, and patience must have their say if their love is to last.

That love is hard work and endures, even when there is good reason to quit. And that true love, no matter how anyone might try to define it, isn't what we feel, or even say, insomuch as love is what love does.

Yet, I am aware that so many boys and girls have witnessed no tangible examples of the way men and women are supposed to love, or what love looks like, what love does, how it outshines physical beauty once that has become wrinkled, worn and gray.

This much I also believe: That the romanticized, over-sexualized, head-over-heels version we see in the movies is a poor substitute for the kind I also have witnessed in my lifetime, like the kind that made my grandfather stick by my grandmother's bedside for two years of her illness--and 65 years of marriage--until her last breath.

It is the kind I saw in the gentle way in which a friend, whose wife was battling cancer, spoke to her, opened doors for her and embraced their fight with fearless resolve. In my eyes, that's true and real.

So what's love got to do with it? Everything.