The dogs have been standing on their hind legs, staring out the window since about three, trying to figure out where their people are. For Pete's sake. The other day, when Beve was watching TV at one end of the house, E cooking dinner at the other, and I was sewing in a room between, poor Jamaica kept running up and down the hallway, trying to herd us all to one place or another, she didn't care which so long as she could see us all at once. These dogs just don't settle without their herd all together. And today--tonight--we're definitely not all together.
I'm thinking today, though, of a dream I had this morning about the first boy I ever liked. Someone I hardly ever think about these days. But back in my teen years, I filled pages and pages of my first journals with prayers about him. Prayers that he'd talk to me, do this, or that with me, but mostly, ultimately, please, oh please, let him like me.
God never answered that prayer. That boy never liked me.
Yep, my first 'love' was unrequited. He was the most earnest, godly Christian boy in our high school and I was profoundly drawn to such qualities as a young believer. To his credit, he was always very kind to me. More than kind. He knew (what am I kidding, the whole blame world knew!!!) how I felt about him, but he continued to be the warm and friendly person he was. Years later, when I'd grown up and over, so to speak, and we were real friends, I told him that if I ever had daughters, I hoped the boys they first 'liked' would be as good to them as he was too me. He got a little embarrassed, in his 'aw-shucks'-ing kind of way, and tried to demur that he knew what I was talking about, but I wouldn't let him. "Unrequited love, that's what it was." I told him. " And you handled it gracefully."
So several years later, in one profound moment I've never forgotten, my dad told me that parental love is largely unrequited. To me then, unrequited meant me as a scrawny teenage girl mooning over a boy, who barely notices her, or at least doesn't notice her the way she wishes. But then I had children. No, let me rephrase that. Then I got my first glimpse of my first child. And fell headlong so far into love that all those dewy-eyed teenage feelings were utterly laughable in the face of that tiny baby. This is love. Whatever it takes, wherever it takes us, no matter what she/he/she does, no matter how much it costs me or how much it hurts, I'm in. And I don't even care, I will never really care, if they love me back, because, of course, they can't. How could they? A child shouldn't love her parent in the same way the parents love her. To expect it or demand it...well, this is the stuff of a tragedy. And Shakespeare's version ended with a King going mad (King Lear, for those of you not conversant).
As Beve was driving across the state today, I was thinking about this because what he and MG are going to a hearing with our young friend who must face the man who raped her. What Beve is doing is this kind of parental love that gives and gives without expectation. That's parental love. At least, it's what parental love SHOULD be. My dad's love was like this. My mom's less so. There was expectation in her love. And there were times, when I was young, that I thought it'd be a terrible idea to be a mom--especially of girls--because of my relationship with my mother, and her relationship with her mother. I was scared that poor relationships with daughters was genetic, kind of like the gene for diabetes or high blood pressure. And even when I had our first child, and she was a girl, I admit, I was scared. I was so sure I'd screw it up, that my child/children would grow to resent or even hate me.
But I'd forgotten the deeper truth, that the most important unrequited love on earth is that of God for us. The love that brought Him to earth and gave Him human bones and skin. And put Him on a cross. The same love that did all had transformed me. Had superseded my former life, you might say. What I might have been, what kind of mother I might have been if He hadn't indwelt me15 years before I had my first child, I can't begin to imagine. I don't want to imagine, frankly. It's who He's made me that counts. I am not the best mother in the world. Ask my kids. But I also love them deeply, firmly and without reservation or expectation. And that's because of His unrequited love for me.