Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Love, Affection, Feeling Fond

Here’s a question: Do we only truly love those by whom we feel loved or can we love without expecting a return? (Forget about unrequited young love from afar, I don’t believe there’s much substance to that, but you may, of course, think differently, particularly if you follow some of the greatest poets both in antiquity such as Ovid and Dante and more recently, Goethe, not to mention modern popular music.

I was thinking of love because of Millie, of all things. Remembering Beloved, with whom I was both in love as well as loving him deeply, unquestioningly I thought at the time of our lives together,  I now think that the fact that he loved me as deeply did no harm to our close and harmonious relationship. Many of you use blogposts to describe how warmly you are enmeshed with your families, children and grandchildren. Long may it continue and may you never be disappointed. That kind of relationship needs work, tolerance and understanding each other’s needs and preferences. My own family is not as successful at this as yours.

But back to Millie, she had a serious stroke the other evening. She has recovered now, at the time I thought the end had come. While I sat comforting and nursing her for the many hours it took for her to return to a more stable condition I realised, by and by, that with her death the last common link with Beloved would disappear too and that there would be nobody left by whom I would be loved unconditionally. I am not comparing the love of an animal to the love of a human being but, in my opinion, it comes at least halfway up the scale. I have more affection for animals than some humans.

Quite definitely we feel affection for good friends. But here too the fondness must be returned. For how long can you be friends with someone who ignores you, behaves in an off-hand manner or treats you badly when it suits them. Some people are natural door mats but I’d hope you are not among their number. If your friend refuses to accept your friendship in the spirit in which it is offered, change your friend.

We can, of course, grow fond of those whom we employ. Old gardener has worked for me for many years, we toiled together, sat and chatted (me listening to him more than the other way round since he became deaf), we got tired together, drank tea, admired the results of our labours, gossiped, sniped at others; in other words, we were on very friendly terms and I was very fond of him. And now my dear Austin, Old Gardener, will  garden no more. He is very ill, his strength gone, his good humour vanished. He is in the clutches of a pair of nasty cancers,  neither treatable; I shall miss him and his penchant for indiscreet gossip as well as his pleasure in telling long stories about life in the bad old rural days. I am not sure that Austin was as fond of me as I was of him but that doesn’t seem to matter in this case. It matters very much more in the case of Paul, whom I have also mentioned here several times in the past. Paul is back with me for the time being. I doubt that Paul is fond of anyone, maybe his mother, but no one else. He is a serious depressive and that depression allows him no room for anyone else but himself. I am sorry for Paul but I am not fond of him. I need a return which he is at the moment unable to give.


  1. This post gave me a lot to think about. Since I am now a senior citizen and widow, I find that many loved ones, especially the older ones in my family, are gone. My dad when he was about 80 would tell me all his long time friends were dead. Sad but true for him. The old friends and family with whom we share a history can never be replaced. I do love my new friends dearly, they are in process of becoming old friends! Have a lovely day Friko.

  2. I think I have less patience with my husband than he has with me. He is the eternal optimist and gets into projects and situations where I feel I have put my foot down. His memory is failing a little and it is hard for me to get out of the habit of asking him something and him saying he will do it and then it never gets done. It is an honest, deep, and not a fragile love, but I could be more forgiving and more patient. Something that I will need to be in the years ahead. I think animal love is certainly as important as human love.

  3. I am so very sorry to hear that Austin's gardening days are over.
    I think that love does demand a level of reciprocity, and agree with you about being fonder of some animals than people.

  4. I'm glad that Millie recovered...and sorry that Austin is dying in such a miserable way.
    Reciprocity is needed for the real thing and an animal doesn't backbite or denigrate as people are wont to do.

  5. True friendship is a rarity. Even those people one pays for their regular service (gardener, cleaning lady, hairdresser...)can be very treacherous. So, contrary to western belief, money doesn't get you everything.

    The optimal solution might be not to depend on others, at any age. It is possible, it's a matter of one's upbringing.
    I was educated on the principles of self-reliance and reciprocity; if there's no reciprocity in a relationship, there's nothing. and you better get rid of it.

  6. I am a natural extrovert and find friends everywhere. And I have a long relationship with my husband, although we married late in life (early 50s), we have become good friends to one another. He is an extreme introvert, and I find that while I have plenty of friends, he has many fewer and I consider our differences in temperament to be the main reason why. So glad to hear that Millie is better, BTW. They love us without condition, and I think that's why we love them back the same way. :-)

  7. Acquaintances come and go in life. They are only important for a certain time in one’s life and then they or we move on. They are either liked or tolerated. Good friends, though, are loved, old friends are treasured. They become that because love is reciprocated. Our pets, especially when we are older, touch our hearts in the most lovely way. It is pure.

  8. Well, I think that link is important; but anyway, glad Millie is doing better. We lost our dog a few weeks ago, but even now when I walk in the door I expect her to come and greet me.

  9. When I was a kid my dog taught me about unconditional love. Without her I would not have known it existed. I preferred animals to the majority of people most of my life. I have been lucky to have some good friends over the years of various levels of closeness. The very best and closest one died a few years back. I still miss her. You were so blessed to have Beloved in your life. I do not miss the men I personally all.

    So sorry to hear about Austin. He doesn't have an easy road ahead. And Paul...too bad you can't find another gardener. There are people we are much better off avoiding contact with. They drag down your spirit. May not hurt to ask around.

    But glad to hear she got better. It's hard when our pets get old. Especially when we like them better than a lot of people. ;) I hope she does well now for a good long while.

    Oh, and I do think the best love goes both ways.

  10. This is a beautiful and very thoughtful post, my friend. One that gives me much to ponder. I'm very grateful Millie bounced back from the stroke but that had to be very frightening for you in so many ways -- just the thought of saying goodbye will be very difficult. I'd not thought so much about that last connection to one we loved apart from in terms of my parents -- so few of my friends or even Rick ever knew them. That's sobering, for we all want to remember and know someone will remember us, connect to the past. Your life with Beloved was very beautiful, I think, true kindred spirits in so many ways and that is a gift of great value and much to cherish, even in memory.

    I'm sorry to hear about Gardener Austin. You two were so very companionable and we all need that. It's sobering to realize we are "of an age" where more of our friends and family will leave us. We had two deaths this week. One last month. A memorial service for still another tomorrow. I don't like it at all...

  11. I envy you your relationship with Beloved and others in and around my age who claim to be still 'in love' with their husbands or to love them so much. I haven't felt that for mine in many years though we are still together and I have no intention to leave it as we get along fine and I have no desire to try and start over with someone else with it's unknowns. he's my history and some of it was not happy history and while we weathered the storm it changed things for me. I feel more genuine emotion for my little dog who attached herself to me and is my constant companion. and what you say about friends is true also. I have given up on some over the years as I felt finally that I was the only one invested in the friendship and since they never reached out to me I suppose I was right. sad to hear about Old Gardener, I'll miss your posts about him.

  12. Dear Friko - another thought provoking post with many truths ... you were lucky to find Beloved and have the many years you had together: never enough of course - and love is just love is ... so desperate when a loved one leaves us.

    Benno and Millie are lucky to had/have you as their mistress ... and I am glad Millie appears to have recovered - devastating when they go ...

    I bet Old Gardener was exceedingly fond of you and loved his afternoons and chats - just sad he gets/got cantankerous with age and illness ... I know you'll miss him and his good days. Then Paul - he sadly probably just simply can't communicate feelings and emotions - and is someone we need to understand and be there for ... though knowing there won't be much reciprocation in return. Perhaps his mother can help you to get him to 'do what's good for him and what you need' - but also hope you can find another gardener to see you through the gardening year.

    All the best as you juggle life and its occupants around in your world ... take care - cheers Hilary

  13. Yes. I think that it is possible to love without the feeling being returned. I loved my room mate in college. But I have come to understand that it is impossible for her to love anyone but herself. Even her children have told me so. Still, I go out of my way to stay in touch with her, know what is going on with her, help her when I can. But the relationship is very one sided. I make her sound like a terrible person. She is not. She simply is incapable of viewing life outside of any context other than her own.

  14. I have always made much of my friends. Soul sisters. My romantic partnerships have not worked out well. I think it was me. I do not share quarters well and all the rigmarole that goes with that. I am basically a gregarious loner, love my own time to myself, spend time with dear friends who return to me the high regard with which I hold them. If they don't, I pull away, gently. I am doing that with one at the moment. She breached my trust as her life spirals out of control with addiction so she had to trade information to have her addictive needs met. I understand that. But I can't have her in my life anymore.

    I am sorry about Milly. I miss my Ansa desperately still. She was the love of my life.


  15. "Here’s a question: Do we only truly love those by whom we feel loved or can we love without expecting a return?"

    I think we can love without expecting a return.

    "...and that there would be nobody left by whom I would be loved unconditionally."

    This hurt to read. I think it's not true. God loves you unconditionally. He created you. I know, what a thing to say, but this is the Internet and, if that's the weirdest thing anyone says to you on here, I'd say you are ahead of the game.

  16. Poor Millie, poor Austin. My family sounds like it may be more like yours than those who have rather enmeshed lives with their loved ones. In my case, a series of divorces and remarriages may, in part, be the culprit.

    My close friends are all busy with childrearing yet. There is less opportunity for them to be available, I suppose.

  17. For whatever reason, these are things I don't think about very much. I had a tendency to overthink everything when I was younger, and I suspect now I analyzed to death things that might have keep on living otherwise. I do understand how your experiences with Millie would lead you down such paths -- and your gardener, too. I was surprised at the depth of my grief when I lost Dixie Rose. I knew I was fond of her, but I didn't realize that I loved her. I suppose that's a common thread in life for most of us. We know whom we love, but there are many loves that go unnoticed until circumstances change.

  18. Yes we can love without it being returned. It is a different sort, and hopefully the minority of our Love. It also needs careful watch as pouring too much energy into it is no good.

  19. How lucky in love you have been with Beloved and your dogs. I was the doormat in relationships that you mentioned - I've since given that particular personality up and spend my love now solely on family and a few close friends.

  20. An interesting question. I know I loved my little granddaughter long before she was even aware of me as anything more than a warm pair of arms. Within the family, love seems to come naturally -- unless it's rebuffed. As for others . . . I don't know. I feel great affection and fondness for quite a few people -- some of whom, like yourself, I've never met in person. And here, I think, no reciprocity is required. The sadness of growing older, one of the sadnesses, is that loved ones die or, due to their own problems with aging, become less loving/loveable. I hope that Millie stays with you a bit longer -- the love of a dog makes up for much.

  21. Friko, you write about love and what we expect from our loved ones. You are right we often love animals more than people and friendship between people is not always equivalent.
    I'm sorry Millie, she was so sick and you looked after her so well.
    Of course it is difficult to do in the garden without a good gardener, and I also feel sorry for him.

  22. C.S. Lewis wrote a book titled The Four Loves. I haven't read much of it, and that was a long time ago. Maybe you would be interested in it. He also wrote about the loss of his wife, so honestly and piercingly that some people wondered if he could still call himself a Christian, feeling the way he did. That one is A Grief Observed, and I did read it after my husband died.

    Your questions do lead back to the basic question of "What IS love?" That's where I think Lewis's book can be helpful... so I guess I should read it myself eventually :-) We all experience different sorts and degrees of love. The older I get the more I notice people who are, as Lisa describes, to one degree or another incapable of love. They might even love "unconditionally" but not with understanding. Who knows the reasons they are "emotionally stunted" or never got outside of themselves. I've started to see that my accepting them as they are and believing that they are doing their best is loving them.

  23. Well I have to laugh at the Mumbai comment. Need affection? It's waiting for you in India....
    More seriously, I think affection has to be mutual, or at least thought of as such. You and J had quite a wonderful relationship and it's quite unusual (I think) to be able to say you not only love but are in love with your mate of many years. The definition of 'in love' is a personal one, and I'd be interested to know what it means to you. For me it goes along with newness, the initial discovery, the breathlessness of a strong attraction. I love my husband, but I'm not sure I could still say I'm in love with him. Perhaps we simply make too much of the semantics.
    I'm glad that Millie came through, and I do understand what her loss would mean to you. Lately I've been thinking about unconditional love, and how very fortunate a person is to have it. Even from an animal, it is deeply comforting. May she hold out a while longer...

  24. I am glad that Millie survived and I hope will be with you for a while yet. There is something disturbing about the old links going, but I think it is true that nobody can truly said to be gone until there is nobody alive that has any memory of them, or even heard tell of them. It makes me sad to think of all the poor old dogs abandoned or bereaved in shelters who also want someone to love, and of course they will be unable to understand it at all.


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