Here I am, sitting on the plane back to my hometown of Boston returning from yet another business trip. I gaze out the window and study the blanket of clouds beneath us, my eyes continuously drawn to the sun’s glow as it slowly drops below the horizon and on to faraway lands unknown.
Surrounded by total strangers who don’t even know my name, I feel a strong desire to be home NOW instead of in 3 hours. Perhaps the very fact of knowing that soon I will be home makes me want it even more. I long for the sound of the garage door closing behind me, the dog’s inevitable barking as I climb the steps from the garage into the house in that last act of a man coming home to his family.
This aching for home makes me sad, but in a good way. I can practically hear my daughter calling “Daddy’s home!” while she rushes to hug me. If I close my eyes I can feel my wife’s embrace and all of the emotion that comes with it, that feeling of having reached a point of completeness, where all of the world’s indignities seem to melt away, where all of the anger and frustration that comes with being a human being suddenly seem so very small against the backdrop of a love that knows no end.
But that embrace is far away, and so as I sit here on this lonely plane flying above this even lonelier planet my mind begins to wander.
It was only ten years ago, in the summer of 1997, that I walked into the English Education department at Columbia University Teachers College and a woman who I had never met before looked at me and said my name without even hesitating, as if she had known me my entire life.
“Hello Sean,” she said all those many year’s ago, looking at me with those dark brown eyes that I have come to adore and love, her life-giving laugh filling the air. To this day I don’t know how she could possibly have known my name. But somehow, she did.
If Hollywood and Popular Culture is to be believed, love is a fleeting, temporary emotion. It is something that comes and goes. It is disposable, an emotion of convenience that is only worthwhile as long a it feels good. And once it no longer suits our personal satisfaction, it should be thrown out the window like a used paper cup.
If a man cannot recognize his true love when he comes upon it, if he is so self-focused that he is unable to see with eyes unencumbered when loves stares back, then he is ultimately a hopeless cause and will be doomed to see love the way that (sadly) most people do.
But not so for me. Ever since that fateful day, I have experienced what it means to love and to be loved in a million different ways, big and small, each moment and each gesture serving as a constant reminder that I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth. Truth is, my wife and 4 kids have taught me everything I ever needed to know about love.
Love is the happy chaos of a house filled with children playing, some of whom are your’s and others who are children drawn to your house from down the street simply because they smell happiness and want to be near it.
Love is having a vacuum cleaner that only works when it wants to, and having a wife who not only doesn’t mind this fact but who is happy to drop everything she is doing when it finally decides to turn on every 10-15 minutes.
Love is giving far more than you take but still getting more than you ever wished for.
Love is wanting to scream at the top of your lungs with every fiber in your body but resisting the temptation to do so because little hearts bruise easily.
Love is a lazy Sunday afternoon spent chasing your kids around the front yard, with no other objective other than to watch them grow before your very eyes.
Love is never forgetting the promises you made on the day you were married and on each day your children were born: to honor, to love and to cherish.
Love is finding that one person in the world who knows your name even before you can speak it.
Which is why, for me, love is a girl named Clare.
“Hello, Sean,” she said, without a moment’s hesitation.
It was almost as if God had whispered my name to her on the day she was born and said, “Show this man the meaning of love.”
And somehow, she did.