04 July 2019

REBORN ON THE 4th of JULY



50 Years Ago Today, a Tornado Hit Cleveland. Not Everyone Got Out Alive.


MY BROTHER CHRIS WAS A ROYAL PAIN when I was growing up. He and his friends taunted me incessantly, and as the next elder sibling in the Miller food chain, he made sure I knew that he was the boss, as many older brothers often do.

I could go on and on about the childhood traumas: he pushed me in a pile of dog manure; he broke a neighbor’s window with a baseball — and then blamed me; and once, he even poked me in the eye with a stick. When my Mom brought me home from the hospital, Chris tried to tell me how cool I looked with a patch over my eye, to avoid getting in any further trouble.

“You look like a PIRATE,” he exclaimed with all of the thespian might he could muster.

“The patch is WHITE,” I replied angrily. “Have you ever seen a pirate with a WHITE eye patch?” 

He just smiled.

Chris knew that his bullying had to end soon, but he persisted for as long as he could. He had an eerie knack for stopping his evil acts just before being caught-in-the-act by mom. By the time she walked around the corner, his little devil-face would magically transform — and his cherubic demeanor would miraculously re-appear.

God, I hated that.

By the time I turned 13, however, I was growing — rapidly. I had developed a far more athletic build than my brother, and suddenly, we were the same size. 

The era of being the taunted sibling had come to a close.

CHRIS’ LAST ACT OF CHICANERY came on July 4, 1969 when he stole my brand new outfit: a pair of black bell-bottom pants and a new striped pullover shirt. As I prepared to leave for the Independence Day fireworks at Lakewood Park, I noticed that my sweet new clothes were missing. 

Chris had somehow slipped into my clothes, slipped out of the door and was long gone.

I’m sure I cursed at him under my breath — and I know for certain that I created quite a stir with my Mom about the injustice of it all — but the bottom line was that I would have to leave for the fireworks without my spiffy new outfit. So I stopped by a friend’s house and we began our walk to Lakewood Park a few miles away.

By 1969, Lakewood had developed into a huge inner-ring suburb and was full of kids — and the 4th of July fireworks were always spectacular. It had been a picturesque day in Northeast Ohio and we were looking forward to meeting up with friends and enjoying the evening.

We were about five minutes from Lakewood Park when the sky turned from a beautiful blue to jet-black — in less than two minutes’ time. Without notice, my friend and I were suddenly caught in the grip of the most furious storm either of us had ever experienced. Make no mistake, we were scared to death. Trees were snapping all around us. Huge tree limbs were being flung with unfathomable force. The temperature dropped rapidly and so much rain drenched us that we were suddenly shivering. It was dark, the street lights were out, and we were frightened and dazed.

And then there were the power lines; live electrical power lines that buzzed and danced in the flooded streets. 

It was the storm that changed everything.

It took about an hour to get home, as my friend and I made our way through a jungle of downed trees and flooded roads in the darkness. Lakewood — and indeed all of Cleveland was without electrical power. We saw dozens of cars smashed by trees, windows blown out of businesses and even a few people injured by flying debris. 

When I finally walked in the door, my Mom and Dad gave me the look of joy and relief that only a parent can truly understand. The living room of our humble home was lit by flickering candles, but it was easy to see how grateful my parents were to see me. A small transistor radio was on the mantle, and was reporting the bad news: 100 mph winds had slammed into Cleveland and Lakewood with brutal force; people had died, including some who had been electrocuted by power lines like the ones my friend and I had dodged. Scores were injured; hundreds were missing on Lake Erie — and the hospitals, all on emergency power, were under a terrible strain.

As I began to recount my saga to my family, the phone rang. 

The call came from Lakewood Hospital: and they informed us that my brother Chris was in the emergency room. My parents rushed to the car and somehow made it to the hospital, despite the trees and the power lines and the flooded streets. When they phoned a few hours later they told us point blank: “Chris is in critical condition — a priest has given him his last rites — and and it doesn’t look like he is going to make it. Pray for him.” 

Sobbing uncontrollably, I ran to the darkness of my bedroom and began to pray. . .and pray. . .and pray. “If you let him live, Lord,” I said, “I will never fight with him again. I-WILL-NEVER-FIGHT-WITH-HIM-AGAIN.” I repeated this mantra hundreds of times, begging and pleading and crying all the while.
Over the coming hours and days we learned that a tree of more than four feet in diameter had crushed my brother Chris. We also discovered that the very same tree that had struck my brother so violently had killed Gretchen Schwartz, the sister of one of my friends and classmates. 

We learned of the heroism of volunteers and emergency workers who risked their own safety to free my brother, who had been trapped in the middle of the tree after it splintered around him. And we learned that once Chris had been freed from the clutches of the tree how the volunteers and ER workers carried him to a makeshift triage in a garage nearby the Park in an attempt to save his life.

Today is the 50th anniversary of that day.

Twenty years ago, on the 30th Anniversary I drove to Lakewood Park before all of the festivities began — and just sat quietly. Then I picked up my phone and dialed.

I told the person on the other end that thirty years prior I had made a promise to God that if he would spare the life of my brother, I would not fight with him ever again.

“It’s been thirty years,” I said. “And do you realize that we’ve never had so much as a disagreement?”

On the other end of the phone, my brother Chris sobbed. Since the accident, his life has been one of unbelievable twists and turns — of challenges and faith — and of real-life drama.


Yet, fifty years later I am happy to report that my prayers were answered — on that night when the storm changed everything.



04 July 2018

REBORN ON THE 4th OF JULY

MY BROTHER CHRIS WAS A ROYAL PAIN when I was growing up. He and his friends taunted me incessantly when I was little, and as the next sibling above me in the Miller food chain, he made sure I knew that he was the boss. 

I could go on and on about the childhood traumas: he pushed me in a pile of dog manure; he broke a neighbor’s window with a baseball — and then blamed me; and once, he even poked me in the eye with a stick. When my Mom brought me home from the hospital, Chris tried to tell me how cool I looked with a patch over my eye, to avoid getting in any further trouble.

“You look like a PIRATE,” he exclaimed with all of the thespian might he could muster.

“The patch is WHITE,” I replied angrily. “Have you ever seen a pirate with a WHITE eye patch?” 

He just smiled.

Chris knew that his bullying had to end soon, but he persisted for as long as he could. He had an eerie knack for stopping his evil acts just before being caught-in-the-act by mom. By the time she walked around the corner, his little devil-face would magically transform — and his cherubic demeanor would miraculously re-appear.

God, I hated that.

By the time I was 13, however, I was growing — rapidly. I had developed a far more athletic build than Chris, and suddenly, we were the same size. 

The era of being the taunted sibling had come to a close.

CHRIS’ LAST ACT OF CHICANERY came on July 4, 1969 when he stole my brand new outfit: a pair of black bell-bottom pants and a new striped pullover shirt. As I prepared to leave for the Independence Day fireworks at Lakewood Park outside of Cleveland, I noticed that my sweet new clothes were missing. 

Chris had somehow slipped into my clothes, slipped out of the door and was long gone.

I’m sure I cursed at him under my breath — and I know for certain that I created quite a stir with my Mom about the injustice of it all — but the bottom line was that I would have to leave for the fireworks without my spiffy new outfit. So I stopped by a friend’s house and we began our walk to Lakewood Park a few miles away.

TEENAGED ANGST AND ALL, my friend Robin and I were looking forward to the fireworks. Lakewood had developed into a huge inner-ring suburb and was full of kids — and the 4th of July fireworks were always spectacular. It had been a picturesque day and we were really looking forward to the evening.

When we were about five minutes from Lakewood Park, the sky turned from beautiful sunshine to jet-black — in less than two minutes’ time. Without notice, Robin and I were suddenly caught in the grip of the most furious storm either of us had ever experienced. Make no mistake, we were scared to death. Trees were snapping all around us. Huge tree limbs were being flung with unfathomable force. So much rain drenched us that we were shivering, and the temperature felt like it had dropped by twenty degrees in just a few minutes time.

And then there were the power lines. . .live electrical power lines that buzzed and danced in the flooded streets. 

It was the storm that changed everything.

It took about an hour to get home, as Robin and I made our way through a jungle of downed trees and flooded roads in the darkness. Lakewood — and indeed all of Cleveland was without electrical power. We saw dozens of cars smashed by trees, windows blown out of businesses and even a few people injured by flying debris. 

When I finally walked in the door, my Mom and Dad gave me the look of joy and relief that only a parent can truly understand. The living room of our humble home was lit by flickering candles, but it was easy to see how grateful my parents were to see me. The transistor radio was on — and was reporting the bad news: 100 mph winds had slammed into Cleveland and Lakewood with brutal force; people had died, including some who had been electrocuted by power lines like the ones Robin and I had dodged. Scores were injured; hundreds were missing on Lake Erie — and the hospitals, all on emergency power, were under a terrible strain.

As I began to recount my saga to my family, the phone rang. 

It was Lakewood Hospital—my brother Chris was in the emergency room. My parents rushed to the car and somehow made it to the hospital, despite the trees and the power lines and the flooded streets. When they phoned a few hours later they told us point blank: “Chris is in critical condition — a priest has given him his last rites — and and it doesn’t look like he is going to make it.” 

Sobbing uncontrollably, I ran to the darkness of my bedroom and began to pray. . .and pray. . .and pray. “If you let him live, Lord,” I said, “I will never fight with him again. I-WILL-NEVER-FIGHT-WITH-HIM-AGAIN.” I repeated this mantra hundreds of times, begging and pleading and crying all the while.

Over the coming hours and days we learned that a tree of more than four feet in diameter had hit Chris. We also discovered that the very same tree that had struck my brother so violently had killed the sister of one of my classmates. 

We learned of the heroism of volunteers and emergency workers who risked their own safety to free my brother — who had been trapped in the middle of the tree after it splintered around him. And we learned that once Chris had been freed from the clutches of the tree how the volunteers and ER workers carried him to a makeshift triage in a garage nearby the Park in an attempt to save his life.

Today is the 49th anniversary of that day.

On the 30th Anniversary I drove to Lakewood Park before all of the festivities began — and just sat quietly. Then I picked up the phone and dialed.

I told the person on the other end that thirty years prior I had made a promise to God—that if he would spare the life of my brother that I would not fight with him—ever again.

“It’s been thirty years,” I said. “And do you realize that we’ve never had so much as a disagreement?”

On the other end of the phone, my brother Chris sobbed. Since the accident, his life has been one of unbelievable twists and turns — of challenges and faith — and of real-life drama.


But forty-nine years later I am happy to report that God did indeed answer my prayers — on that night when the storm changed everything.

28 May 2018

FRIENDS AND VETERANS

TODAY IS MEMORIAL DAY IN AMERICA. Thousands of miles away in Belgium, however, young schoolchildren began their day at the Flanders Field cemetary, honoring the fallen American heroes from World War I who helped save their country at a desperate time in Belgian history. Under a clear blue sky, they sang the Star Spangled Banner and placed small American flags next to Belgian ones in memory of those who died to preserve the liberty of this great nation. 

It gives me pause to consider that we're 100 years removed from the first ‘Great War,’ yet small children in Belgium still take the time to learn our national anthem and pay homage to our nation’s sacrifice. 

On this Memorial Day, while we honor all of the brave men and women who fought and died in foreign wars, perhaps we should also ask, “what will we do to support today's soldiers when they return home from war?”

And I wonder, will young Iraqi or Afghani children pay homage to the American dead in the decades that follow? 

. . .I wonder.

As a very young boy, I tried, unsuccessfully, to extract the meaning of war from my father, who served in the Army overseas during World War II. He resisted, time and again, looking rather distressed and puzzled by the notion that his youngest son — the second last of seven children — had this persistent curiosity about his time in Italy fighting Hitler and Mussolini’s troops. Being a Southerner by birth, Dad was always a private man, with little interest in divulging excessive emotion or grandiose stories. After years of pestering, he finally told me some painful stories about his fallen brethren in WWII. He had been sobered by war, to be sure — and he knew that we should never subject young men and women to its cruelty and death unless absolutely necessary.

I have a friend — a fine Hollywood actor and Vietnam veteran — who rails at many Veterans' organizations for demanding the kind of attention afforded to vets every Memorial and Veterans Day, because he thinks it glorifies war. As he ages, however, I suspect that even he must know that his sacrifice is worth such unconditional respect. 

So today, I choose to give thanks to not only our veterans and those who died in faraway lands, but to the new recruits who are ready to fight with valor if asked to. 

On this special day of memoriam, however, we should also thank our friends, the Belgian people.

For, thousands of miles away at Flanders Field cemetery — while most of us were sleeping — the next generation of Belgian leaders stood with their elderly citizens and paid homage to the memory of America's fallen warriors from nearly a century ago. 

It’s the ultimate Memorial Day gift. And that's what friends do.



-30-
-Art by  jun_huang

10 May 2018

'DON'T FORGET TO SHOW LOVE'

24 July 2017

03 July 2017

REBORN ON THE 4th OF JULY

MY BROTHER CHRIS WAS A ROYAL PAIN when I was growing up. He and his friends taunted me incessantly when I was little, and as the next sibling above me in the Miller food chain, he made sure I knew that he was the boss. 

I could go on and on about the childhood traumas: he pushed me in a pile of dog manure; he broke a neighbor’s window with a baseball — and then blamed me; and once, he even poked me in the eye with a stick. When my Mom brought me home from the hospital, Chris tried to tell me how cool I looked with a patch over my eye, to avoid getting in any further trouble.

“You look like a PIRATE,” he exclaimed with all of the thespian might he could muster.

“The patch is WHITE,” I replied angrily. “Have you ever seen a pirate with a WHITE eye patch?” 

He just smiled.

Chris knew that his bullying had to end soon, but he persisted for as long as he could. He had an eerie knack for stopping his evil acts just before being caught-in-the-act by mom. By the time she walked around the corner, his little devil-face would magically transform — and his cherubic demeanor would miraculously re-appear.

God, I hated that.

By the time I was 13, however, I was growing — rapidly. I had developed a far more athletic build than Chris, and suddenly, we were the same size. 

The era of being the taunted sibling had come to a close.

CHRIS’ LAST ACT OF CHICANERY came on July 4, 1969 when he stole my brand new outfit: a pair of black bell-bottom pants and a new striped pullover shirt. As I prepared to leave for the Independence Day fireworks at Lakewood Park outside of Cleveland, I noticed that my sweet new clothes were missing. 

Chris had somehow slipped into my clothes, slipped out of the door and was long gone.

I’m sure I cursed at him under my breath — and I know for certain that I created quite a stir with my Mom about the injustice of it all — but the bottom line was that I would have to leave for the fireworks without my spiffy new outfit. So I stopped by a friend’s house and we began our walk to Lakewood Park a few miles away.

TEENAGED ANGST AND ALL, my friend Robin and I were looking forward to the fireworks. Lakewood had developed into a huge inner-ring suburb and was full of kids — and the 4th of July fireworks were always spectacular. It had been a picturesque day and we were really looking forward to the evening.

When we were about five minutes from Lakewood Park, the sky turned from beautiful sunshine to jet-black — in less than two minutes’ time. Without notice, Robin and I were suddenly caught in the grip of the most furious storm either of us had ever experienced. Make no mistake, we were scared to death. Trees were snapping all around us. Huge tree limbs were being flung with unfathomable force. So much rain drenched us that we were shivering, and the temperature felt like it had dropped by twenty degrees in just a few minutes time.

And then there were the power lines. . .live electrical power lines that buzzed and danced in the flooded streets. 

It was the storm that changed everything.

It took about an hour to get home, as Robin and I made our way through a jungle of downed trees and flooded roads in the darkness. Lakewood — and indeed all of Cleveland was without electrical power. We saw dozens of cars smashed by trees, windows blown out of businesses and even a few people injured by flying debris. 

When I finally walked in the door, my Mom and Dad gave me the look of joy and relief that only a parent can truly understand. The living room of our humble home was lit by flickering candles, but it was easy to see how grateful my parents were to see me. The transistor radio was on — and was reporting the bad news: 100 mph winds had slammed into Cleveland and Lakewood with brutal force; people had died, including some who had been electrocuted by power lines like the ones Robin and I had dodged. Scores were injured; hundreds were missing on Lake Erie — and the hospitals, all on emergency power, were under a terrible strain.

As I began to recount my saga to my family, the phone rang. 

It was Lakewood Hospital—my brother Chris was in the emergency room. My parents rushed to the car and somehow made it to the hospital, despite the trees and the power lines and the flooded streets. When they phoned a few hours later they told us point blank: “Chris is in critical condition — a priest has given him his last rites — and and it doesn’t look like he is going to make it.” 

Sobbing uncontrollably, I ran to the darkness of my bedroom and began to pray. . .and pray. . .and pray. “If you let him live, Lord,” I said, “I will never fight with him again. I-WILL-NEVER-FIGHT-WITH-HIM-AGAIN.” I repeated this mantra hundreds of times, begging and pleading and crying all the while.

Over the coming hours and days we learned that a tree of more than four feet in diameter had hit Chris. We also discovered that the very same tree that had struck my brother so violently had killed the sister of one of my classmates. 

We learned of the heroism of volunteers and emergency workers who risked their own safety to free my brother — who had been trapped in the middle of the tree after it splintered around him. And we learned that once Chris had been freed from the clutches of the tree how the volunteers and ER workers carried him to a makeshift triage in a garage nearby the Park in an attempt to save his life.

Today is the 48th anniversary of that day.

On the 30th Anniversary I drove to Lakewood Park before all of the festivities began — and just sat quietly. Then I picked up the phone and dialed.

I told the person on the other end that thirty years prior I had made a promise to God—that if he would spare the life of my brother that I would not fight with him—ever again.

“It’s been thirty years,” I said. “And do you realize that we’ve never had so much as a disagreement?”

On the other end of the phone, my brother Chris sobbed. Since the accident, his life has been one of unbelievable twists and turns — of challenges and faith — and of real-life drama.


But forty-eight years later I am happy to report that God did indeed answer my prayers — on that night when the storm changed everything.

04 July 2016

REBORN ON THE 4TH OF JULY

MY BROTHER CHRIS WAS A ROYAL PAIN when I was growing up. He and his friends taunted me incessantly when I was little, and as the next sibling above me in the Miller food chain, he made sure I knew that he was the boss. 

I could go on and on about the childhood traumas: he pushed me in a pile of dog manure; he broke a neighbor’s window with a baseball — and then blamed me; and once, he even poked me in the eye with a stick. When my Mom brought me home from the hospital, Chris tried to tell me how cool I looked with a patch over my eye, to avoid getting in any further trouble.

“You look like a PIRATE,” he exclaimed with all of the thespian might he could muster.

“The patch is WHITE,” I replied angrily. “Have you ever seen a pirate with a WHITE eye patch?” 

He just smiled.

Chris knew that his bullying had to end soon, but he persisted for as long as he could. He had an eerie knack for stopping his evil acts just before being caught-in-the-act by mom. By the time she walked around the corner, his little devil-face would magically transform — and his cherubic demeanor would miraculously re-appear.

God, I hated that.

By the time I was 13, however, I was growing — rapidly. I had developed a far more athletic build than Chris, and suddenly, we were the same size. 

The era of being the taunted sibling had come to a close.

CHRIS’ LAST ACT OF CHICANERY came on July 4, 1969 when he stole my brand new outfit: a pair of black bell-bottom pants and a new striped pullover shirt. As I prepared to leave for the Independence Day fireworks at Lakewood Park outside of Cleveland, I noticed that my sweet new clothes were missing. 

Chris had somehow slipped into my clothes, slipped out of the door and was long gone.

I’m sure I cursed at him under my breath — and I know for certain that I created quite a stir with my Mom about the injustice of it all — but the bottom line was that I would have to leave for the fireworks without my spiffy new outfit. So I stopped by a friend’s house and we began our walk to Lakewood Park a few miles away.

TEENAGED ANGST AND ALL, my friend Robin and I were looking forward to the fireworks. Lakewood had developed into a huge inner-ring suburb and was full of kids — and the 4th of July fireworks were always spectacular. It had been a picturesque day and we were really looking forward to the evening.

When we were about five minutes from Lakewood Park, the sky turned from beautiful sunshine to jet-black — in less than two minutes’ time. Without notice, Robin and I were suddenly caught in the grip of the most furious storm either of us had ever experienced. Make no mistake, we were scared to death. Trees were snapping all around us. Huge tree limbs were being flung with unfathomable force. So much rain drenched us that we were shivering, and the temperature felt like it had dropped by twenty degrees in just a few minutes time.

And then there were the power lines. . .live electrical power lines that buzzed and danced in the flooded streets. 

It was the storm that changed everything.

It took about an hour to get home, as Robin and I made our way through a jungle of downed trees and flooded roads in the darkness. Lakewood — and indeed all of Cleveland was without electrical power. We saw dozens of cars smashed by trees, windows blown out of businesses and even a few people injured by flying debris. 

When I finally walked in the door, my Mom and Dad gave me the look of joy and relief that only a parent can truly understand. The living room of our humble home was lit by flickering candles, but it was easy to see how grateful my parents were to see me. The transistor radio was on — and was reporting the bad news: 100 mph winds had slammed into Cleveland and Lakewood with brutal force; people had died, including some who had been electrocuted by power lines like the ones Robin and I had dodged. Scores were injured; hundreds were missing on Lake Erie — and the hospitals, all on emergency power, were under a terrible strain.

As I began to recount my saga to my family, the phone rang. 

It was Lakewood Hospital—my brother Chris was in the emergency room. My parents rushed to the car and somehow made it to the hospital, despite the trees and the power lines and the flooded streets. When they phoned a few hours later they told us point blank: “Chris is in critical condition — a priest has given him his last rites — and and it doesn’t look like he is going to make it.” 

Sobbing uncontrollably, I ran to the darkness of my bedroom and began to pray. . .and pray. . .and pray. “If you let him live, Lord,” I said, “I will never fight with him again. I-WILL-NEVER-FIGHT-WITH-HIM-AGAIN.” I repeated this mantra hundreds of times, begging and pleading and crying all the while.

Over the coming hours and days we learned that a tree of more than four feet in diameter had hit Chris. We also discovered that the very same tree that had struck my brother so violently had killed the sister of one of my classmates. 

We learned of the heroism of volunteers and emergency workers who risked their own safety to free my brother — who had been trapped in the middle of the tree after it splintered around him. And we learned that once Chris had been freed from the clutches of the tree how the volunteers and ER workers carried him to a makeshift triage in a garage nearby the Park in an attempt to save his life.

Today is the 47th anniversary of that day.

On the 30th Anniversary I drove to Lakewood Park before all of the festivities began — and just sat quietly. Then I picked up the phone and dialed.

I told the person on the other end that thirty years prior I had made a promise to God—that if he would spare the life of my brother that I would not fight with him—ever again.

“It’s been thirty years,” I said. “And do you realize that we’ve never had so much as a disagreement?”

On the other end of the phone, my brother Chris sobbed. Since the accident, his life has been one of unbelievable twists and turns — of challenges and faith — and of real-life drama.


But forty-seven years later I am happy to report that God did indeed answer my prayers — on that night when the storm changed everything.

12 February 2016

YUAN FEN


DON’T TELL MY MOM I SAID THIS, but someone once told me — in the strictest of confidence — that my mother “fell in love every month” until she met and married my Dad. Having waited until I was “mature enough” to get married — only to get divorced a few years later — I guess I can understand how even my Mom could have enjoyed years of fickle feelings before having her heart set ablaze by my Dad. It seems like human nature, especially in the context of relationships in the 21st century.

Of course, once Mom made a decision, that was that. There would be no looking back. Sixty years later, Mom and Dad, both in their 80s, remain true to their vows. . .and very much in love.

Many of our Moms and Dads — members of “the greatest generation” — have enjoyed similar longevity in matrimony. Today, however, with marriages lasting between 6-7 years on average, one must ask if the “Me Generation” is truly unable to keep a commitment. . .about anything.

This uneasy, chronic dissatisfaction is all around us. I was having dinner with a very successful, affluent, female medical doctor a few years ago when the conversation shifted to relationships. “What is it with men, “she rightly asked, “and why is it that you are all unwilling to get married?” She outlined her case against men very firmly, beginning with, “Men don’t want companionship, they want control,” before adding that “men won’t marry a powerful woman with a great career…especially if they make less money than a woman.” 

“Is it REALLY that, Doctor,” I recall asking. “Is it that men are afraid of powerful women? Perhaps so. Or is it that we live in this ‘Me’ centered universe, devoid of loyalty and unconditional love? Could it be that we live in an age where few have the patience, the tolerance, or capacity to forgive — like children forgive their parents on a weekly basis — and that we are living our lives as if life is always greener on the other side of the mountain?”

She seemed perplexed, and we went on like that for hours. Maybe something resonated with her, as six months later she reported back that she had indeed found her man, and was engaged to be married.

Thus, is there anything more beautiful — or maddening — than love? We see it portrayed in movies, television, books and magazines all of the time, of course, but while they do justice to the word in an imaginary, Hollywood-kind-of-a-way, do we really know what the reality of love is?

I wonder.

Yeah, I admit it .. I have cried at the line (“You had me at ‘Hello’,” from the movie Jerry Maguire) EVERY SINGLE TIME I’ve heard it spoken. I think it touches a raw nerve of unfulfilled love within me, and allows a deep and abiding sadness to surface. Is it ONLY because of ‘Hollywood magic’ that this takes place. . .am I being manipulated by the cold orchestrated efforts of the media machine to go see the next Cameron Crowe movie? Again, perhaps.

Yet when this sadness occurs, it highlights that those feelings within me, no matter how glorified or artificial they may appear in Hollywood, do indeed exist. Is it because Renee Zellweger’s character is so willing to accept Jerry Maguire, a man full of vanity and failures and flaws, at his lowest ebb?

If we are looking for love at all, THAT is what keeps many of us in the game .. believing that there is at least one perfect woman/man out there in the Universe. It is the unconditional, the solid-as-a-rock notion that “I will stand beside you always…even when you are broken…” that keeps us coming back for more.

The Chinese have a concept called “Yuan Fen,” for which no direct translation exists in the English language. It is a visual, contextual combination of destiny, tried-and-true effort and, well, luck. Yuan Fen, like so many things Chinese, is a karmic phrase meant to illustrate the importance of fate and diligence in our lives. For a relationship to work, one needs both “yuan,” the fateful, pre-destined meeting of a man and a woman that creates the possibility of lasting love — and the “fen,” or the action of sharing and WORKING toward fulfilling that destiny together.

It is a lovely concept. Since yuan fen acknowledges the deeper meaning of events in our daily lives, it also highlights the need for shared energy and commitment to make “the dream come true.”

The can be no “fen” without “yuan.” Without hard work .. and perhaps a little luck, there can be no yuan fen. This, it would seem, is the part of the equation which alienates those of us in Western culture, because let’s face it, if things get tough in relationships, most of us cut-and-run. 

Our lack of commitment — our unwillingness to stand shoulder to shoulder during difficult times — is probably the simplest reflection of life in the material age, and a society built on instant gratification.

IT IS NOW NEARLY 22 YEARS since my first-and-only wife divorced. We definitely did not experience ‘yuan fen,’ but I love and admire her just the same. She was the bearer of many laughs .. and many lessons. I am grateful to her.

As another Valentine’s Day arrives, I still believe the idea that fate, destiny and karma may deliver my yuan fen to me some day .. if it is meant to be. It is the “eternal optimist” in me. Some of you may think that my beliefs make me naïve. Perhaps .. but I always believe that love will complete the circle .. for all of us.

My prayer is that you will find your “yuan fen” as well, if that is truly what you seek .. and that you will be willing to work for your blessings, like so many in “the greatest generation” did before us.

Happy Valentine’s Day. . .and peace to you all.