I’ll bet that humans, both male and female, have asked that question from the beginning of time. It’s a good one. I don’t even pretend to have the answer, of course, but 81 years of observing my fellow man — and woman — have led me to suspect that there are part answers.
For example, back when I first retired from the Air Force, Lolly and I, along with our two kids, David, 11, and Francis, 9, traveled to one of the most beautiful small towns in the nation: Natchitoches, Louisiana (It’s pronounced NACK - UH - TISH, and the faster you say it, the closer you get to the correct Cajun pronunciation. Try NAKTSH).
Lolly, as always, suddenly had four or five friends. I don’t exactly know how she does that, but the fact that I fell in love with her at first sight may be a clue. As luck would have it, one of Lolly’s new friends had a very pregnant cat. Lolly and I have always loved animals, but in all our 14 years together in the Air Force we never had a pet. International quarantine regulations made it almost impossible for anyone with a conscience to have one.
You see, it’s not possible to bring a pet in from some countries, which means giving them away — a terrible thing to do to a loving animal. Almost as bad is what the poor things have to go through when you are allowed to bring them home. Two to four weeks in quarantine was the norm in those days, and probably still is. Pets had to be turned over to a shipper, were often shipped in pitch black, ice cold aircraft cargo compartments, and went without a glimpse of, or solitary word from, their owners for as long as six weeks.
Uh-uh! Not for us! Can you imagine how those poor animals suffer? How do they know they haven’t been abandoned? Some just pine away.
So when we had an offer of a kitten after a long, dry 14 years we jumped at it. And so a tiny ball of white fluff came into our lives — named Fluffy, of course. Her first night in her new home she slept between us in the space between our pillows. And then — a happy day I will never forget — she woke up in the morning, saw my leg move, leapt onto the secret enemy beneath the blankets — and straight into our hearts.
It was easy to tell that Fluffy loved us. Wherever we were, there she was. Usually on Lolly’s lap, of course. I was the auxiliary master.
That’s exactly the way it has been with Lolly and me for 54 years. We have been together as much as humanly possible. Since I retired and we moved up here, that has been virtually all the time. Even when I was turning the front porch into a sitting room during an unusually icy November, there was Lolly — freezing right beside me, the sweetheart! I told her to go on in, but she stuck it out. I’ve always been the same way about being with her.
Which gets us back to the original question, “How can you tell when someone really loves you?”
One answer: “When he or she wants to be with you all the time.”
Simple, right? And I’ll bet you already knew it. But explain this: (If you’re a male, I’ll bet you know what I am about to say.)
It harkens back to my single years. One day one of the guys is running with the crowd, downing cheeseburgers and suds, talking about V-8s, superchargers, and speed shifting, playing a little poker, buying too many tools, and grousing about speed traps.
The next day? Ph-t-t-t! Gone! No sign of him.
For somewhere between two months and two years he runs around in circles, with hardly a moment to say hello if you happen to run across him. He spends all his time trying to get as close to, and spend as much time with, some pretty little gal. Then? Happy days! The target of all that activity is at last his. Wedding bells ring. Rice is thrown. Two happy faces disappear on a honeymoon. Soon there’s a nice home, and maybe a couple of kids. God’s in his heaven. All’s right with the world.
But then — for some guys?
At some unpredictable date after the honeymoon they suddenly seem unable to stand house and home for more than 10 seconds at a time. They’re back with the old crowd, looking far too old to be there, spending money they haven’t got, winking at everything in a skirt, and playing super-stud.
I’ve tried — hard! — to make sense out of that, but I can’t.
How is that love?
Tell you what, Johnny. Don’t wait for me to answer that question.
It’ll be a lo-o-o-ong wait.