Unraveling the mysteries of love


Forget scary movies or the end of the world — what scares almost all of us the most, by far, is getting a voicemail from a family member, telling you to call back right away because “it’s important.”
My 90-year-old father did that last week, a message I got on my phone as I was walking from what had been an enlightening and productive meeting with a school superintendent. The last several months had been filled with difficult calls like this. My mother’s cancer. My stepmother’s passing. Learning that a former colleague is gravely ill.

I couldn’t begin to imagine what this call might be about. Not wanting to stress as I dialed my dad’s number, I calmed myself by joking under my breath that my parents probably went out and got married.

“Dad, it’s Mike. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong. But I wanted to let you know your mother and I got married.”

This wasn’t my imagination. This was actually coming from the other end of the line.

“Wait, what? When?”

“What time is it now?” My dad paused for a moment. “Oh, about an hour ago.”

Since my stepmother died, my parents had reconnected. My dad moved from Florida back to where I grew up in Pennsylvania late last year to be closer to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And my mom happened to already be there, with room in her house for him to live.

Although they divorced in 1998, my parents remained friends. They didn’t have to co-parent or anything — all their kids were grown. But even in the worst of times, if two people truly love each other, can anything really keep them apart?

That’s a mystery of love — one of many. And it was no coincidence, I’m sure, that all of this took place on the lead-up to Valentine’s Day.
Not much is known about Valentine, except that he lived and died during the third century, ministering to persecuted Christians in the Roman Empire — if you can believe what Wikipedia shares. But so much of Valentine’s story is obscured by legend, and it’s really not clear what led our culture to revere him.

More than 200 years after his death, Pope Gelasius I established a Feast of St. Valentine to take place on Feb. 14, to honor his martyrdom. Centuries later, Geoffrey Chaucer — the English poet who brought us “The Canterbury Tales” — wrote about Valentine in his poem “Parlement of Foules,” linking him to romance and lovers for what is believed to be the first time.

Love happens to be the language many of us — if not all of us — relate to the most. The power of love can build new worlds or destroy them — and do just about everything in between.

The famed radio psychiatrist Dr. David Viscott once said, “To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides.” And 20th-century philosopher Rabindranath Tagore described love as “an endless mystery, for it has nothing else to explain it.”

My parents woke up one morning last week and decided between breakfast and buying some groceries that they would give marriage another go, decades after they called it quits.

Love is indeed an endless mystery. But as long as it continues to bring people together — like it did my mother and father once again — keeping it a mystery is worth the price.

Michael Hinman is executive editor of Herald Community Newspapers. Comments?