Charlie Watkins and I have been friends since 1964, when we were in first grade together at Allen Park Elementary School in Fort Myers, Florida. There are many things I like, and love, about my friend, Charlie, including our shared fondness for beautiful flowers; our mutual love of rock and roll music, played loudly; and our general outlook on life. Of all the things I like about Charlie, one thing stands out above the rest: Charlie’s fearless expressions of love. When I visit Charlie, he always has a gorgeous bouquet of flowers waiting to greet me. Charlie always ends our phone calls by telling me he loves me. He often sends me texts that include his unique way of conveying “X” and “O” that most people recognize as kisses and hugs. Charlie and I often communicate through music and musical lyrics. We have shared many cosmic moments when we are both listening to the same song on our favorite SiriusXM channel and we simultaneously text each other about hearing one of “our” songs. I will always have a fond memory of attending a concert with Charlie several years ago when we held hands while one of “our” songs, “The Happy Song,” by Bring Me the Horizon, was being performed by the band. Charlie’s favorite band (current band, not historical, such as a classic rock band) is Shinedown. Shinedown has a wonderful song that reminds me of Charlie and the impact he has had on my life, as well as the lives of those close to him. The song, titled “How Did You Love?” has powerful lyrics about how we live our lives, including the fact that we can have many things, but the most important thing we will leave behind, when we are no longer alive, is the way we loved others. This is a strong testament to living one’s life not only to the fullest extent possible, not only with as much joy as one can bring to oneself, but with as much love as one can give to the people we hold dear. Charlie, you rock! And, I love you! Thank you for being my friend.
I think the idea conveyed by the question “How Did You Love?” is worth considering in our world which is so full of stress and strife. Perhaps I’d modify the question a bit, and ask, “How Did You Live?” Too many people seem to live their lives not in love, but in meanness, anger, and bitterness. I was recently called a “schmuck” by one of those mean people who was loudly speed walking in a quiet nature preserve and had passed Melissa, me and our friend Susan, almost knocking Susan over (I don’t think she could have knocked me down given our relative size). I saw her coming around again, from a different direction, and told Melissa and Susan to watch out and move. In response to my warning, she yelled “schmuck” and raised her middle finger. What the heck? She was the aggressive one, and I tried to ignore her. Melissa blew her kisses and waved a 2 finger peace sign, to which the mean one continued to wave a 1 finger salute. Fortunately, that was the end of things, other than me being teased for being called a schmuck. We’ll never know the life she has had that created such meanness, but this is not an isolated event. We read of road rage, fights in stores, and way too much venom, the sources of which are impossible to determine when they manifest out of the clear blue. I know that Melissa and I try to live our lives with love for each other, our families, and friends. Having helped many friends in the past, and continuing to do so, is the only thing that makes sense to me. It can certainly cost one, in dollar terms, to live that way, yet the riches that flow from doing the right thing are there for those who live with love. How did you love?