The Many Faces of Love
Many profound expressions of love have been bestowed upon me; sacrificial, romantic, unconditional, reciprocal, adorational, mystical, spiritual, and reverent.
The sacrificial love occurred during the Great Depression of the 1930s when my teenage mother rendered me, her infant daughter, unto a loving, elderly Christian couple to care for me until she was able.
This elderly couple had a grown son who lived elsewhere, and had previously lost their only daughter from a terminal illness when she was age twenty-one, in the year 1925. I replaced the love and emptiness they lost and felt.
My foster father worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad, was often away, and only lived the first four years of my tender young life, but left me with three cherished loving memories.
A few years after his sojourn to the here-after, his widow depleted his endowment and her savings, and began working as a domestic. She made many personal sacrifices to provide me with devoted nurturance of the basic necessities of life. She formally adopted me when I was nine years old. Her love for me was verbally unspoken, but manifested itself through enduring and compassionate caregiving.
Although my foster mother was the purest person I have ever known, the early years of my life were grievous, lonely, and sad. I never felt loved but only as an intruder. My most fervent wish was for a “real” family with a sense of belonging. There was a yearning within me to fill an abysmal void created by my unknown true identity. Only the memories of my foster father sustained me. My life was like a book with no title on the cover and filled with blank pages. My birth mother had tried to visit me on occasion, but the juvenile system of those days of yore forbade any visitation because an unwed mother with a bi-racial child was ostracized.
During the ensuing years of schooling, my sense of belonging was manifested through friendships and excelling scholastically. Additionally, throughout my growing up there were many spontaneous, romantic interludes of fleeting childhood and teenage crushes on the cute little boys in grade school, high school and college. However, this was interrupted in my second year of college.
One of my activities in college was the dramatic club. During one public performance of 'The Barretts of Wimpole Street,' an unknown play goer became enchanted with the “actress” who played the part of Bella, the vamp in the love story of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Although only 17 years old, still in pig tails and bobby socks, I was that actress, made up to look much older and sassier.
This visiting gentleman, a medical intern, somehow located my adoptive mother and, as a smitten and potential suitor, began verbally seducing her with an assortment of grandiose promises for the hand of her daughter in marriage; all of which was unknown to me. For two years of his pursuit I was still attracted to my male classmates, not to him, an older man whom I actually ignored. My elderly mother finally succumbed to his promises and consented to my prearranged marriage, but with the condition that I remain in school to finish my last two years of college. She thought maybe he would abandon his pursuit, but to no avail.
No one asked me to get married. When told that I would be married, I was too young, inexperienced, immature, and intimately untouched, to object. I thought that if this was what she wanted, what better way to repay her for her guardianship than to submit to her wishes.
We were celibately wed in my mother’s home without fanfare other than my being in a daze. He moved away to care for his ailing mother while I remained at home in college, even lonelier than ever because I was forbidden to socialize with my classmates because I was now a “married woman.”
Two years later, upon graduation, I joined him in a different city, where I remained for 13 of the most unhappy years of my life. I left the marriage one month to the day after my mother’s death.
During those 13 years of marriage, my two lovely and loving sons were born, along with a new awakening of never-before-felt real love; reciprocal, and unconditional with new-found responsibilities, resilience, and reverence.
During my marriage, when my sons reached the ages of 3 and 5, I began teaching kindergarten in a public school where the luminous love-lit eyes of adoration of my kindergartners were further fuel for my soul. This interactive love, which lasted for 52 years, still glows today from former students, now up to 60 years of age.
After my divorce, when my sons were ages 9 and 11, my sadness was that they would be without a “whole” intact family; but with a reassurance that they would survive as I had with the help of Divine Intervention.
It was at this phase in my life that I pledged to be the best person I could be and to accomplish as much professionally as I could as a gift of gratitude to my birth and foster parents and as a legacy to my sons.
The mystical phase of love occurred, when at age 39 and a divorcee, I became suddenly “branded” day and night, month after month, with a burning desire to find my birth mother…a desire which had been painfully submerged since childhood.
Months of searching lead me to a telephone number. During the call, we both tearfully reunited and she revealed her fervent prayer to communicate with her daughter before passing from an imminently terminal illness. I was picking up her vibrations telepathically.
During our telephone conversations, the blank pages of my life began to fill with answers about my identity and her love and concern for my survival. Among other disclosures, I was also told some vague things about my birth father which I accepted, but with curiosity since I could not acquire a birth certificate because it was sealed.
Although now partially whole, I was close to being reborn. She passed away before I got to see her, but did meet her through a treasured letter and photograph.
My most profound phase of love was spiritual love, which occurred many years later. One day, while looking through a pile of photos, I discovered one of me at age 15. I gasped in disbelief, while running to place this picture beside the photo of my beloved foster father. The resemblance between him and me was unmistakably uncanny. As I thrust my pointed finger toward the picture while forcefully touching it, I adamantly exclaimed, “YOU ARE MY BIRTH FATHER!!” At that very moment, I became surrounded completely in a glow of light accompanied by a warmth which consumed my entire body! The photo seemed to assume an expression of tenderness as my earthly father acknowledged that “YES, I AM YOUR BIRTH FATHER !!”
Those precious three memories of years before flooded back to me.
Instantly, at age 75, I felt totally renewed.
Love comes in many forms, phases, and faces slowly over time. I now knew that I had been loved, was loved, am loved, and will continue to spread this deep and profound affection to others. For to whom much has been given, much is expected. Presently, at age 82, and during these waning twilight years of my love-life, with deep gratitude and great humility, I am committed to a life of service while sprinkling love dust to caress creatures large and small.
“To conquer love, have tried. To conquer grief, tried more. Grief indeed is love and grief beside. I was not hard to love, yet yearned for love asking to open thine heart wide, and fold within, the wet wings of thy dove.” “True love is a durable fire, in the mind, ever burning. Never sick, never old, never dead. From itself never turning!” No more tears, they’ve all been erased by love!
In maturity, I deem all of the above events Divine Intervention as preparation for present and future occurrences. I would not have compassion nor be the person I am today, had they not happened. My pledge to honor my sons, birth and foster parents has been fulfilled with many local and national recognitions and awards. Presently, I am an adjunct professor for parents in the Parent University of the School District of Philadelphia, and again am in a reciprocal adoration between my, now, adult students and me. I tell this story as inspiration to others to have resilience in the face of adversity, and with gratitude, faith, courage, and belief for Devine Guidance.
My wish for a family has been granted many times over, with four sons, (two of whom are stepsons) seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren; all beautiful, bright, and devoted. The older ones are accomplished, respected professionals, and engaged in lives of service. At this past Thanksgiving, it was proclaimed, “You are the Queen of the family, our role model for character and achievement! We owe our success to the examples you have set!”
I did not achieve this legacy by myself. It developed over many years and through the interactions of family, friends, students, acquaintances, and by the Grace of Our Heavenly Father. Of what more love and Blessings could I possible ask? My memoir shall sing my love story and be reverently entitled, “The Mystical Faces of Love!”
This is the first in a weekly series of love stories, submitted by readers, to be published in February.