Oh, the things you do for love.
I’m talking about the real deal, not the imposters from Madison Avenue or Victoria’s Secret. And not the “I love you, man!” brand. And certainly not the cheap imitations that Hollywood serves up fresh every month.
I’m talking about the genuine, sacrificial, for better or worse, I’ll be there through the good, bad and ugly, I commit my life to you level of love. That kind of love is a beautiful thing.
During my senior year of college, I returned home to New York for Christmas vacation. Everyone had been raving about a new eatery called Tiffany’s Café. I called some girlfriends who were also home on break and we went on a Saturday night to check it out.
It was huge and had Victorian décor with amber lighting. Antique brass and oak pieces were positioned throughout the huge room and mid-century Life magazines were spread on wall-length racks around the lobby. Just inside the main room, two massive rectangular oak chests held piles of game boxes—Scrabble, Parcheesi, Backgammon, chess and checkers.
In the middle of the café, a small octagonal platform rose five feet above the tables and booths. A musician was perched on a stool as he strummed his twelve-string guitar and crooned the best of Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, Seals and Croft, Carol King and Bread.
We had a delightful evening and I wondered who had the sensitivity, insight and creativity to birth such a wonderful place.
As we paid the bill, I inquired about the restaurant and my friends “dared” me to audition to sing there one night.
I had only sung and played guitar in church so at my Tiffany’s debut, I mixed loved songs about guys with love songs about God. Amy Grant, Chuck Girard, Second Chapter of Acts, Chris Christian, Michelle Pillar—great songs. Well, I thought they were great.
Nobody seemed to be listening except for my grinning friends and the man at the cashier. I later learned he was the owner.
You’ll never guess his name.
Four years later, I met him at the altar.
Frank and I just celebrated our 33rd anniversary and we have actually gotten a handle on this business of love.
Don’t misunderstand. I’ve loved Frank since that talk on the park bench at the harbour. In hindsight, what I felt for my future mate was kid stuff, not very unlike what I felt for Steven Zelinski in fifth grade. My love for both Steven and Frank had more to do with how they made me feel and what emotional benefits I received, rather than what I was capable of offering. Steven got my baseball card collection and Frank got my hand in marriage. Steven got a full box and Frank got a mixed bag.
We both worked full time during the day and pursued graduate courses at night. My classes were Tuesdays and Thursdays and his were Mondays and Wednesdays. We met for dinner at dozens of restaurants between the two schools and once in a while, Frank would bring a tape of our wedding song and ask the manager to pop it into the sound system. We watched a fairly new TV program called Nightline most evenings and occasionally had milk and Oreos in bed. The weekends were all ours and we occasionally headed to Boston, the Berkshires or the Hamptons. Year two was more of the same. We completed our respective Masters Degrees, took a life changing missions trip to Haiti and had a crash course in mourning when Frank’s father died of a sudden massive heart attack.
Somewhere between years three and five the novelty wore off
Somewhere between years three and five, the novelty and purity of “yes, honey– sure, honey– no problem, honey–whatever you decide, honey” wore off and got replaced with “Why do you do that? –Don’t touch my stuff!–Go ahead, but I’m not involved–What do you expect?”
I started making piles and Frank started discarding my piles. I was busy bonding with people and Frank began creating lists and priorities (for me.) I began to dabble in the kitchen and Frank started charting everything from personal goals to personal prayer to personal finances– MY personal finances! He discovered “The Daytimer” and decided the whole world should have one. He has never been seen without it. It’s his constant companion and brings him more comfort than I care to discuss.
Years six through ten of our marriage are kind of blurry.
I realize now it was an extended case of sleep deprivation. Actually, what I do remember most clearly about those years is the fluid. Lots of fluid. Little sleep. Frank bought a small manufacturing plant, attended law school nightly and became Chairman of the Board for Long Island Youth for Christ. While Mr. Wonderful built up his intellectual, psychological and spiritual muscles, I put on over forty pounds in order to bear him a child. Four years later, there were three little Lofaros in all. Those generational sins started “visiting” us (so that’s what that passage meant!) We had serious Italian ones sent down from both sides.
Needless to say, the trials, challenges and repeated struggle to avoid “dying to self” caused all kinds of new baggage to appear.
It was heavy and did not always smell sweet.
The next few years were full of upheaval, transition and adjustment and yet, it was a strangely calming time in our marriage.
Frank’s decision to enter full-time Christian work made an enormous impact on our lives. An out of state move caused us to renew and rediscover our friendship with one another. (If possible, try this without having to go too far away.)
Our parenting skills improved and so did our ability to disagree in an agreeable manner. We learned how to “fight fair” and to be gentler with one another’s deficits.
He no longer throws my piles away; instead he just moves the boxes to the basement. I no longer hide his Daytimer when he comes home late from work.
He has lost some hair and I have lost some bone definition in the area between my neck and ankles.
Our friendship has never been stronger.
Our commitment has never been deeper.
Our love has never been sweeter.
I am so glad my friends dared me to sing.
So, to Frank J. Lofaro, Jr.:
Thank you for being strong and for admitting weakness.
Thank you for being a protector and provider.
Thank you for boldly facing your baggage and gently exposing mine.
Thank you for being a man of integrity and discipline, of devotion and prayer.
Thank you for being a caring, affectionate, instructive father to our children.
Thank you for being a real man, a “Tender Warrior,” a servant of the King.
I love you honey.
Happiness in marriage is not finding the right person . . . it is being the right person.