I don’t know why exactly, but for sometime I’ve wanted to write a post about love. It’s not that I am an expert on love – far from it – but I have been fortunate to experience a great amount of love in my life and some, if not much of that, comes from my time in Italia.
Perhaps I’m thinking about love because yesterday Donato and I celebrated twenty-two years together. That’s 22 years, which means that for 8030 days I have woken up each morning to a smiling face by my side. Okay, maybe not all 8030 days. Let’s just agree on 8000.
When it comes to Donato I’ve often experienced what I can only call ‘a wave of love’, as if something has taken over my body. The feeling is indescribable and when I tell Donato about it, he usually replies, “It’s just the food talking” – I’ll admit that these ‘waves’ often do come after having a great meal or a wonderful glass of wine, but regardless, they are immensely gratifying and I do believe they are a reflection of my love for this man. I think that Donato says what he does because it’s maybe a bit embarrassing or hard to accept such deep feelings of love. He’s clearly not as effusive as I am when it comes to expressing his feelings, but he makes sure that I know that he loves me too.
We fell in love not long after meeting one another. It was an odd start to a relationship. We both had volunteered at an organization that sold donated home goods, donating the proceeds to various AIDS entities. Given the fact that Donald volunteered on Sunday and I volunteered on Friday we didn’t meet until I hosted a party for volunteers and Donald attended. At the time, I was on book tour and Donald was busy with his work; consequently, the first date we could set up was for a month out. Too my horror I realized a few days before our first date that I had promised a friend that I would attend an Al-Anon convention event with him – my friend, Tom, was the keynote speaker – and I knew it was terribly important that I supported him. What to do?
I decided to call Donald. I told him I had messed up my dates, had made a commitment to a friend that I did not want to break, and asked, “Would you mind going to an Al-Anon convention before we go out to dinner? It will be a very nice dinner,” I promised.
Donald replied, “What’s Al-Anon?”
Oh god, I thought, realizing that I’d need to explain about the organization that exists to support those affected by another’s drinking problem. But I did, and to my great relief he said yes. Turned out to be the best thing I could have done.
My friend Tom spoke. Tom, a disabled man, had come from an alcoholic home, and for an hour he spoke from the heart about his life, his fears, and joys. It was incredibly moving.
Following the event, Donald and I drove to Sausilito where we sat by the sea and talked about our lives. There was no ‘first date chatter,’ no questions like ‘what music do you like? or what movies have you seen?’ We talked about our growing up and our families, our hopes and dreams. After about 90 minutes we walked into Scoma’s, a seafood restaurant, and we given a corner table overlooking the city of San Francisco, lit up as if it were primed for a photo shoot. I’ll never forget how beautiful the city was or how I felt being with Donald.
The following week we went grocery shopping and cooked, at his place, an Italian meal. He talked on and on about Italy – Donald had spent his graduate year in Rome and fell in love with pretty much everything Italian – and insisted we make a trip. I experienced my first little ‘wave.’
Soon we were ‘in love’ and off to Italia.
I had been to Italy twice before: Once, after my stint in the Peace Corps, when having completed a whirlwind tour of Africa, the Middle East, and Southern Europe, reminiscent of the film If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium, I arrived in Italy so exhausted that I barely managed to stay awake during the time there. The second occasion, many years later, was one that I had expected to be a joyous and romantic adventure. It fell short, way short. Did I mention it fell WAY short?
So, it was a joyous surprise to, like Donato, fall in love with Italy.
For over twenty years we have gone to Italy. We’ve fallen in love, not just with each other, but with the usual things foreigners fall in love with about Italy: the food, the sites, the art, the Italian way of life, etc. But, more importantly we fell in love with the Italians. We’ve eaten with them, laughed with them, traveled with them, and we celebrated our wedding with them. These experiences have enriched our lives and to have had the joy of doing this together with Donato has been beyond joyous.
And, that miei amici, is what I call AMORE!