In daylights, in sunsets,
In midnights, in cups of coffee?
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife?
In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes?
How do you measure a year in the life?
How about love?
— Seasons of Love, Rent
What can make a boat captain cry and give a no-nonsense matriarch chills?
Life, reduced to its essence. In other words, a slide show of photos covering the 80 years two people have existed on this planet.
I spent Memorial Day weekend in Chicago with eleven other people, celebrating the 80th birthdays of both J’s paternal grandparents. We didn’t know it when we flew up, but this year also marks the 67th anniversary of their first meeting – they’ve known each other since they were 13.
Linking two lives together so completely doesn’t happen by accident.
Lately I keep hearing advice to the effect of, “Love isn’t an emotion, it’s a choice.” When I stole glimpses at J’s grandparents watching the story of their intertwined lives, I felt like I finally understood.
The pictures that flickered by drew us backwards in time. We saw these two people grow younger, together. They traveled from the calm of retirement to the dazzle of fancy parties to the bliss of seeing their grandchildren born. We experienced their sheer thrill at getting married (arriving there wasn’t a smooth path for them), and then we saw Grandpa in his army uniform and Grandma sunning at the beach. Soon enough, beloved ghosts haunted the screen as their parents, and their parents’ parents, appeared in cameos of days long past.
At the end of the slide show – with an unaware child’s perfect timing – their new great-granddaughter let out a happy squawk. We all giggled, and then J’s uncle said, “Look at what you’ve created. This family. Not one of us would be here without you.”
And sure, it’s one thing to reproduce – they could have started the chain of four generations and not cared whether it rusted or suffered broken links over the years. But instead, 67 years after they came together, these two people are still the ones the family rallies around, the reason we fly cross-country to eat and drink with people we rarely see. There’s only one explanation for that, and it isn’t obligation.
It’s love, born not of anything resembling perfection but of a lifelong, constant effort to always choose family.
Love isn’t an emotion, it’s a choice.
Measure your life in love.