“The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.”—Gloria Steinem
“I love you,” I whispered, stuttering the words in a long pause filled with silence. Complicated. It was complicated and yet….so easy…once the words were out. Or, was it easy. Not so much. I had never considered what would happen next or what you would say.
“I know,” you laughed a light laugh….not uncomfortable….just you.
In truth, you have never been afraid of those words. Just me. I have always waited for that moment when forever turns into for now. Watching people come and go in my life…some leaving by choice and some by insistence…but you always showed up just when I need you most. I turned around and there you were…standing and smiling with arms open for a hug.
“You don’t understand. My uncle is dying. The man that taught me that there were really good men in the world…the man who stood as a strong example of the man I needed to have in my life…not a man to lead me or a man to follow me, but a man to be with me…and…well…my uncle is dying. And I went down to the river where we first watched your kids swim that day years ago except there were little pools of tadpoles swimming there now. And, a flower floated by…and I realized…I have never told you that I love you,” I babbled knowing that I was not making any sense.
“I know,” you said again, not laughing this time, “but think of how lucky you are.”
Confused…speechless…unable to understand…you continued…”he has given you one more gift. The gift of sharing your love with someone else.”
And, in one simple moment, I understood. The important part was not the people who had walked out of my life teaching me not to love…the important part is loving the people who stayed because they loved me too.