I learned about love from my parents. All my growing years I was surrounded by affection and words of praise. I watched my parents hold hands. I watched my father’s loving hands care for my mother when she was sick and in the last decade of her life was completely dependent on him.
He gave driving lessons to an exceptional nurse who cared for my mother in the hospital. When my mother became ill he turned his life upside down to care for her, selling his businesses, becoming a school bus driver in order to come home and help her in the middle of the day. I remember the night she died. I remember how he punched our apartment wall as he berated himself for not preventing her death. He was her whole world and she was his. I never felt left out. There was enough love for me too.
I have pictures of them, much younger, at nightclubs like the Cuban Casino and the Latin Quarter sitting at a table with friends. They loved to dance. They were beautiful together as she floated in his arms dancing the merengue, the tango, Latin dances full of passion and grace. They loved to party. I remember sleeping on a pile of coats in the bedroom as a small child. They had a real friendship and felt mutual admiration. My father thought my mother was brilliant and talented. He thought I was perfect and told me so all the time, covering my face with kisses when he came home from work. They were never afraid to show affection.
Friday night was poker night; my mother was a card sharp, gambling with nickels, dimes and quarters. She played the Trotters at Yonkers Raceway and was good at picking winners. My mother lived life with gusto and my father adored her for it. They shared a love of baseball. She loved the Mets and forgave them their losing streak, even wrote a nasty note to Yogi Berra advising him on how to improve their playing.
I learned about partnership in marriage. They taught me about trust and hard work. They were partners in business, working side by side. Most couples would split up being in each other’s pockets like they were, but not my parents. I learned what love is from my parents and luckily, I found it for myself. I knew what to look for and work for. Thanks to my parents, I grew up understanding the level of commitment needed for a lifelong partnership. I learned about courage in the face of adversity. Love isn’t easy. It isn’t only flowers and romance. It needs daily nourishment through good and bad times. Love is understanding and friendship. I am grateful for the lessons I received as a child, they’ve been a guidepost for me all my life.