From Chicken Soup for the Romantic Soul

Learning to Love

Recently, I asked my husband Philip if he still loved me even though I had aged since he fell in love with me. That afternoon I had seen beautiful, slim, young women look at him with interest and had suddenly felt the need for confirmation. He looked into my eyes, smiled and wrapped his arm around me. “Of course, dear.” He snuggled up close and started to tell me a story about his granddad and him.

“I guess that I was about thirteen or fourteen years old when it happened. My mother dropped me off at Granddad’s house. She and her sister were going to London for a few days. I have to admit that I did not mind having to stay with my granddad since we got along splendidly and had a special bond. I was really looking forward to the next few days.

“When I entered the room, I saw a black-and-white photo of a beautiful woman I had never seen before on the cupboard. I took it and showed it to my granddad. ‘Who is that in this photo?’ I asked spontaneously.

“‘Do you see her eyes?’ Granddad asked with a smile.

“‘Yes, they look very intriguing, just like the rest of her face. She is so beautiful,’ I agreed.

“At that age,” my husband explained to me, “I was already looking at the fairer part of the opposite sex with interest and the woman on the photo sure could compete with the best. Therefore, I wanted to find out why Granddad suddenly had put this photo on the cupboard.

“‘Is this your sweetheart?’ I asked jokingly. Granddad started to smile but still did not take his eyes off the photo. His smile suddenly faded and with a serious face he looked into my eyes. ‘Yes, Philip, this is my sweetheart. She has always been and always will be.’ Stunned by his answer, I could not respond immediately. Granddad walked away and returned with the family photo album. ‘Look, here I stand next to your grandmother when we were vacationing on the beach in Scheveningen.’

“‘What has that got to do with this good-looking lady on the picture?’ I asked impatiently.

“‘It’s the same woman,’ Granddad said to me softly. ‘Just look at her eyes, they are the same, even though she is much older in this photo.’

“Only then I realized, because of the clothing the woman in the picture wore, that it was indeed an old photo of my grandmother. I had only seen her fascinating face. Full of disbelief, I compared both pictures. ‘But. But . . . ,’ I stammered, ‘if such a foxy lady turns into a crone, or does not age very well, it surely becomes difficult to wake up next to someone like that. There were probably enough other good-looking women around with less wrinkles and slimmer figures.’

“When I look back on it,” Phillip confessed to me, “I am embarrassed, but I was after all just reacting like a typical teenager. Granddad must really have loved me in order to respond patiently to my impolite, cruel remarks.

“‘You did not get to know your grandmother because she died before you were born,’ Granddad continued. ‘But even though she got old, she remained the same woman, the woman I loved with all of my heart. To put it into your terms: If you really love someone, you do not care much about . . . the package anymore.’

“I had to think about that, but told him that I still wondered how he had felt when he saw a younger and more beautiful woman pass by when he was in the company of his aged wife. ‘Of course, I saw them, but then I looked into your grandmother’s eyes, and I saw the fifteen-year-old girl I had fallen in love with, the girl in the picture. Her eyes never changed, even though she got older, her eyes always stayed the same—just like my love for her.’

“I had to admit that Granddad’s words had touched me and deep inside made me wish that I also would find a woman I could love that much. I compared both pictures and said, ‘Granddad, I can see it, on both pictures her eyes are still the same.’ But I didn’t get a reaction for a short while. When I looked aside, I saw Granddad staring lovingly at both pictures. I remember him mumbling, ‘Even for an old woman, she was still beautiful, but you are still too young to see that.’

Phillip turned to me. “Granddad was right. I was too young to understand then. But now I know what he meant. I’ve learned that it’s not a person’s appearance you fall in love with but their soul. When I look into your eyes, darling, I still see the same young and beautiful girl I fell in love with. I still love you and my love for you is not based on your appearance but on who you really are. Like the old proverb says, ‘The eyes are the mirror of the soul.’

As Philip held me close, I breathed a deep sigh of contentment, and I silently thanked his granddad for teaching his grandson, so many years ago, the true meaning of love.

Carin Klabbers

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