Tuesday, September 21, 2010
For you, on your birthday
Would it be enough to say I love you? Would it suffice to repeat that I have never loved someone in the same way? Maybe, in fact, we love each person in a different way. I’m not sure if we are able to love each one with the same intensity, but I was never good in measuring love, anyway.
My love for you is different from every other love I have experienced, because I feel so responsible for you. I admit love has always brought me some sense of responsibility. When I was young I was puzzled by the passage of Saint-Exupéry in which the fox(?) or someone tells the little prince, “you become eternally responsible for the one you captivate” (Forgive me, this is a lousy translation from Portuguese, from a translation from French, and on the top of it there are the inaccuracies of my memory). I remember at first thinking this was beautiful. In the classic sense of love, it seemed to me that we pay love with love. This sounds to me now like the lyrics of a bad bolero; it was different then. A colleague in high school argued that this way of thinking was nonsense. It is not your responsibility if someone loves you. He was a smart guy, although he could not convince me totally.
It took me a couple more years to encounter Carlos Drummond de Andrade, in my opinion the best Brazilian poet. He said something quite different and a lot more poetic. Drummond wrote “Amor é estado de graça e com amor não se paga. Amor é dado de graça...” (Love is a state of grace and no one can pay love with love. Love is given freely). Now my apologies go to the memory of Drummond. It is not my intention to offend his poetry with my poor translation…But I think you got the idea.
My interpretation of it is that we all love, or should love, without conditions. How sad would it be to love someone just under the premise of being loved back? Of course, this, I think, is what we want. But should we always expect it?
I met a Brazilian young man, here in the US, many years ago, who was finishing his doctoral program in Veterinary School. I asked him if he planned to go back to Brazil, to work there. He said he would stay here and work with pets. He was specializing in surgery. According to him, this was a very profitable area. I pointed out a TV reportage I had watched a few nights before, that had stunned me. Some Americans were spending about $25,000.00 to embalm their dead dogs. The simple idea of such a thing caused me thrills… He, in turn, didn’t seem surprised. He told me that a lot of people would spend still more money to save their pets. This is why his professional option appeared so promising. He explained, somewhat compunctious, that a lot of children do not reward their parents’ love with the same affection. In his opinion, this was the reason why some people start to count more on their pets, and hence invest a lot in them. Dogs, he said, are always there for their owners, ready to return their love with an unbeatable enthusiasm. I was suddenly bothered by that and, as usual, could not keep it to myself. You mean that people prefer animals because they can buy their love more confidently? I provoked. Well, I’m sure my interlocutor did not want to go there. I rephrased Drummond’s verses and emphatically defended that one has to love without conditions. There is not some thing like if you love me I will love you. It sounds fair, no doubt, as much as it sounds boring and, I would add, artificial.
If you really read it, one day, without thinking your mom is crazy, remember I love you no matter what. Even if you one day would make me hate the idea of loving you. I want you understand that my conversation with the promising Vet doctor took place before you were born and still I knew that I would dedicate my life to you not expecting you would be the grateful child everybody dreams of. There is something heroic about loving; especially about loving for the sake of it, and maybe this makes the whole thing more interesting and, sometimes, more painful too.
I also struggled with the idea of love as a routine feeling. I’m sure some children do not love their parents. It is hard to imagine, I know, but it may be true to someone. Still harder is to imagine a parent who does not love his/her offspring; and possibly there are plenty of them out there, in someplace. What really interests me is to explore how much we can love and the different ways we can manifest such a feeling. You will see that some people can be crazily weird and, honestly, I don’t buy the idea of violence as “a way of love”. Yeah, I favor some ways of love, especially the non violent ones.
I like to think that love liberates us, instead of imprisoning us in a web of etiquette and obligations. I want, as a matter of fact, just to tell that I love you because you amaze me; because I love to look at you; to listen to your long stories and to pay close attention to your questions, even when I have no idea what to reply. I love your little idiosyncrasies, although they can annoy me a good amount too. I hate to see how detail-oriented you are and how this resembles me in an awful way. At the end of the day, however, I love you more because my defects in you are so much more palatable. I’ll do all possible so you can love me back, always. Even though, you know, you don’t have to.
Happy birthday, my dear boy, love of my life.