Loving the Unlovable
Some people may be “easy to love,” but I haven’t met them. “Easy to like”? Sure. But love implies closeness, sometimes inescapable closeness. Love means blood or vows or commitments we have made to care for people. Sometimes a commitment chooses us: someone needs help and no one else is either able or willing.
At this level, love can be hard to sustain, especially when people disappoint us, turn ill, or slip into a crisis that makes them seem unlike their old selves, the ones we so easily loved in our salad days.
A woman was telling me about the father who had come to live with her in his declining years. Dementia was draining his mind, and he would yell at the caregiver who was with him all day, hectoring and abusing her. Finally, my friend said, she went to the caregiver and said, “I’m sorry—this is really intolerable and I wouldn’t blame you if you just decided to leave.”
“Not at all,” the caregiver said without a thought. Then pointing to a beautiful portrait of the father on a nearby table, she said, “That’s the man I’m taking care of. When he acts out like this, I know that’s not really him. So I just care for the man in the picture.”
When, through some trauma or another, loved ones become someone we don’t know anymore, we can shift our heart’s focus from the angry or bitter person making the most noise, and look instead at the silent person still there, deep inside. And for that person we can find love again.