What is love?

Sure, it’s the month of a manufactured corporate holiday and most people think of romantic love; however, I got to thinking beyond that… In general, what is love?

My first thought goes to my mother. When I’ve had a long day, I call her and feel better just to hear her voice. Her southern twang (stronger than mine, believe it or not), the recent gossip about people I don’t know, the laughter, the inevitable eye roll she doesn’t see when she tells a dirty joke or talks about sex – I’m immediately calmed and all’s right with the world.

But things are easy with my mom. I’ve never had to compete with anyone for her affection, she’s just accepted and supported me, no matter what – even when I was being a jerk or making horrible decisions with my life. She’s always been there for comfort, advice, or a shoulder to lean or cry on.

A love in my life that hasn’t always been very easy is that between myself and my father.

I tell clients about my dad all the time. He’s been in Boy Scouts of America all his life. If the Zombie Apocalypse breaks out, he’s the guy you want around – even though he’s 89 years old and can barely get out of a chair. He’s got mad survival skills.

An old college roommate of his once told my mom that my dad kept flunking out of NC State University because he couldn’t be bothered getting up in time for a class before or at noon. But every Sunday, come rain, sleet, hail, or snow (and this man protested he’s seen my father walk through all 4), he was at the Sacred Heart Cathedral every Sunday morning at 7:45AM for the 8:00AM mass. He’s been a Eucharistic Minister all his life.

When he flunked out of NCSU a final time, he was drafted into the Korean War. He kept trying to get out, but those mad survival skills kept getting him “promoted” and he fought in the front trenches for the better part of a year or more.

My dad is a hard core Republican. He gets frustrated and annoyed at the mere sight of Hilary or Obama.

Tradition is key with my dad. He’s been married to my mother for over 60 years. (She told me once that she would bet her life or mine that he’s never cheated on her.) He brought home the bacon and she fried it up in the pan. He wasn’t much of a disciplinarian because, well, that’s the woman’s job. Duh.

He holds core values that are often the exact opposite of mine and many years went by where we struggled to just have a conversation or sit in the same room together. I went to an all girls’ college and developed a “feminazi” mentality for a while. Those years were fun. NOT.

To say I was rebellious in my youth, is an understatement that almost makes me laugh. I was a prolonged teenager with rage, angst and depression. I was always at the ready to shake a fist, march with a sign, or get into someone’s face about my beliefs and values.

I was very hard to love.

My dad was not a man who expressed feelings, talked about anything too deep, or said “I love you.” He always supported me financially, paying my way through college and helping out with rent and bills when I didn’t get enough shifts at the restaurant. He bought my first car and helped me out to get another one after I wrecked that one and was charged with a DUI at the age of 17.

But as I became tamer with age and he became too tired to fight me, we developed an understanding: “Agree to disagree. And don’t discuss.”

I never doubted in one minute of my life that my dad always loved me. Through clenched fists and gritted teeth, he loved me. Through catching me sneaking out of the house after dark, my “party girl” phase, my joining the Democratic Party to rage against George W, insisting that I would never take a man’s name, becoming an advocate for the LGBT community (before it was the “cool” thing to do) - throughout (or maybe DESPITE) all of that, he still loved me.

Even when I didn’t make it easy. Even when I wasn’t that loveable. Even when I was getting into trouble, breaking one rule after the next, and throwing tantrums. He never stopped loving me.

And I think that’s what real love is. It’s unconditional and 100%, even when the other person is being a complete dick. If you can go through life having ONE person who can love you genuinely, you’re lucky.

Take some time this month to tell YOUR person, “I love you!”  No matter whether it’s a parent, or a partner. I’m sure they’d love to hear it.