Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Unconditional Love

Here’s a corny old Jewish joke about the unconditional love of mothers for their daughters (told with a little sarcasm):

Two women who haven’t seen each other in years run into each other on the street.

“How’s your daughter,” the first woman asks, “the one who married that surgeon?”

“They were divorced,” the second woman answers.

“Oh, I’m so sorry.”

“But she then got married to a lawyer.”

“Mazal tov!” the friend exclaimed.

“They were also divorced… But now everything is alright, she’s married to a very successful CPA.”

The first woman shakes her head from side to side.

“Mmmm, so much nachas (joy in Yiddish) from one daughter…”

++++

My mother is back in Queens after a winter as a snowbird in Florida.    My intention was to live it up in my pseudo-bachelor pad all winter.   Life got in the way.    When I left Queens to come to LA, it was for a short trip.  I expected to return to New York in ten days, not still be in LA three months later.

My mother called five minutes after she walked in the front door.

“I am so mad,” she said.

I had left behind six bundles of dirty laundry and a broken dishwasher.

“Oops,” I replied, suddenly remembering that I promised to take care of things before my mother’s return, and never did , much like the “shower curtain incident” last year.

I wasn’t worried about my mother’s anger.   After all, she’s my mother.    I have been lucky with my parents.   I know a few of you got stuck with shitty parents.   I am pretty confident that my mother is going to continue to love me even if I caused a fire and burnt the entire apartment to the ground.

Unconditional love by a mother.

++++

Of course, that same love can also ruin you.

++++

Sophia and I had a fight last week over… yeah, the dishes.    One day I need to write a post on that one issue.   When we argue, I can feel the love disappear.   There is hate in her eyes.   The next day, when tensions subside, the love returns, as if a dark cloud has lifted.   This disturbs me.   It makes me feel very insecure.   I know, I know, your girlfriend or wife isn’t your mother.   Only your mother will give you that unconditional love.

Perhaps that is why I am looking up codependent in wikipedia.

++++

I am very jealous of all the parents out there. You must feel this unconditional love for your children. It must be such a special feeling.   No one else can ever feel this special bond of unconditional love.

Maybe dog owners.   Remember Lassie?    That was unconditional love, right?

++++

If there is one piece of advice about blogging that I can give to newbies without any reservations, it is this:   Never look for unconditional love online.   You won’t find it.   Through trial and error, I now operate on the assumption that I could lose 75% of my readers or online friends in one week by simply writing the wrong type of post or tweet.   Thank God for V-grrrl.   She’s like Mikey in those old Life Cereal commercials.   She doesn’t like anything, but still likes my posts.   I write half of my posts with her in mind.

++++

It is Easter. The idea of unconditional love is an integral part of Christianity. It describes the belief in God’s love for humankind through the forgiveness of Christ.

Unconditional love is also central to Judaism, although the Jewish God sometimes confuses Passover with April Fool’s Day.

++++

In Exodus, there is a moment when Moses shows his unconditional love for his people. Moses has just lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, and has given them the Ten Commandments.   What does he get in return?   He finds them partying with the Golden Calf, much like parents returning home early from their vacation to find their high school son having a wild party in the living room with more hookers than listed in Tiger Woods’ blackberry.

Does Moses show unconditional love?   Well, maybe not at first.   He curses them, throws the tablets at them, and several sinners die in a fiery blaze.   Let’s just say that anger management classes had not yet been developed.   But to give the dude credit, God later makes Moses an offer that most of us would jump on: “Let my anger burn against them and I shall annihilate them, and I will make you into a great nation!”

Basically, God is offering to get rid of all these schmucks and start over again with Moses in the chariot driver’s seat.  But Moses, for some unknown reason — maybe love is blind — begs for mercy:   “These people have sinned a great sin by making for themselves a god of gold. And now, if You would bear their sin. But if not—erase me now from your book that You have written!”

Translation: “Sure, these Israelites are are a bunch of sinning, high-maintenance assholes — just wait until one day when they have their own country — but I’m one of them, and I love them — despite it all — so just kill me too while you’re at it.”

Unconditional love.   Neurotic, maybe, but isn’t all love?

++++

I know someone is going to comment here that the most important person to love is yourself.   Despite my kvetching, I do love myself.   I find myself very amusing and lovable.   But you just can’t hang around with yourself ALL the time.

34 Comments

  1. I’ll be honest. It wasn’t until I became a mom that I truly felt unconditional love for another human being.It’s easy extending it to them…a little more challenging for the rest of the human race, I’m afraid.

    But still…it’s a good goal to have, right?

  2. I miss that unconditional love. It gets easier with time but sometimes I think “if only she were here….” Then I remember all the times she drove me crazy
    And my father who loved me more than anything or anybody. Let me not get started. It will take a book…..

  3. If there was a “Like” button, I’d click it.

  4. I couldn’t say it … it was a lot, I cut it, if you want it, I’ll email it to you but it’s a beautiful rant, a tearing-my-hair-out kind of rant xo

  5. Maybe in your next life, you’ll come back as my dog. : )

    I’m glad you write for me.

    It’s morning on the East Coast, and I have two kinds of Life in the cupboard–regular and cinnamon. Just so you know, I *am* the Cinnamon Grrrl.

    That other Neil (Young) said it first…

  6. But I’m not a mommy blogger. I think I might be one of the disgruntled types.

  7. Unconditional love does exist…for me, usually involving my kids or a pet. I wish I could say I’ve found it elsewhere.

    Any plans for returning to NY soon?

  8. I find you amusing and lovable too. Much like myself.

    Unconditional love….hmmm. I have it for my parents. And my sister. A few select friends.
    In a romantic sense, though? I don’t want to ever have it. I don’t ever want to give that much of myself away.
    And I’m okay with that.

  9. *is just standing here giving you standing ovation*

    There are so many words, but none even near appropriate enough to express how much I adore your words today.

    You’re changing dear friend…

    And, love is a choice.

  10. I don’t have any kids of my own (yet), but I would go to the ends of the earth for kids in my life.

    This is a great post. Thanks.

  11. Thanks for the smile.

  12. Yes, parents do love their children unconditionally, with brief time outs for unconditional annoyance.

    Don’t fight with a Russian woman about the dishes. You have a better shot at toppling Al Quaeda.

  13. I wish that all parents would have unconditional love for their children, but I’ve certainly seen families where that hasn’t been the case. Which makes me wonder about whether some people have the capacity to love unconditionally and others don’t. Then, if a person does have the capacity to love a child or pet unconditionally, perhaps they have the capacity to do it for others as well. Like Moses.

  14. This is a great post Neil. By the way, if you and Sophia end up fighting about house work, why don’t you just set up a schedule? Save the fighting for the big stuff.

  15. what a beautiful post. it really touched me.

  16. I love that I always know when I come here I am going to read something…different. As always, well-said, Neil.

  17. Awright. I’m a mom. Uh-huh. And I love my daughter unconditionally. But that does not mean I always LIKE her. Yeah. About that.

    The person I have never stopped liking is my best friend. Incidentally, he is also my life partner. Go figure- unconditional love and LIKING, all at once? Shocking.

    Respect is what makes the difference. My daughter is not capable of respect; she is a pre-teen. My best friend? Never demonstrates anything BUT. It shows in words, actions, body language, thought, writing… and I reciprocate with all my heart.

    I know, this doesn’t help You. At all. But if nothing else, it just *raises a hand* and say, “It exists”.

  18. Sorry, but when I read that part about Moses breaking the tablets, all I could think of was tomorrow’s launch of the iPad. Hahahaha.

  19. This post really touched me Neil. You are right, unconditional love is rare. Maybe that’s why parenting is so intoxicating.

    Also, I think you should translate the Torah more often. Hilarious.

  20. You are just so smart, Neil. You continue to wow me.

    Maybe it’s not hate you see in Sophia’s eyes. Maybe it’s anger, which can be a cover-up for hurt. It may not even be about you.

  21. one thing ive learned in my tumultuous journey on earth is to learn to accept and appreciate the way things are. i grew up with no love from either parent, and lived through more horror than the average person. i do have children. i have an unconditional love for them, but unconditional love requires alot from us as parents.it is truly like having your heart beating outside of your body, every pain and hurt, every momemnt for better or worse comes with it. the story of Moses is one of my favorites.this story is central to family. let my people go. though he was raised adopted he not only reunited with his family but led the people out of egypt. he was not up for the job, was a poor speaker and had a bad temper. God used him anyway.Try not to be too hard on yourself. Happy Passover – Happy Easter :o) Blessings to you.

  22. of all the shades of love, i do understand and embrace the love of parenting the most. it is not that they can do no wrong, it is just that it might not really matter. with my spouse there is always the space of having lived lives in between but with your children, they form and shape in front of you.

    thing about unconditional love is that it can be fairly terrifying because of the lack of conditions, control. but i wouldn’t really change it. maybe sometimes i would be change it….

    rambling. sorry.

  23. I SO wish I could have unconditional love toward my husband. I strive for that. But it eludes me.

  24. The love I have for my husband and sons has been different from anyone in my life. I feel this pull that keeps them close to me. Even when there are disagreements, it’s that feeling that brings us all back together to resolve the problem. There are some things I can let go, but when it comes to family my instincts kick in and I’ll fight.

  25. I do feel that unconditional love for my kid, it is true even on the days I want to kill her b/c she’s driving me insane

  26. Yep. I love 4 people unconditionally.
    I made all 4 of them.

  27. My kids own a piece of me that I can’t ever take back and I am good with that. It works.

  28. Wow, that was an intense post. But unconditional love is an intense topic.

    I am not sure at all parents all love unconditionally. Unfortunately. Because that should be the rule, but in reality it is very difficult to do. You always have to catch yourself doing it right when you do, because it can trigger a lot of miracles. But it is hard discipline.

    Signed: someone working at loving unconditionally and making lots of mistakes everyday.

  29. I love this post.

    I always forget about the part where Moses sticks up for the Israelites. I’m also moved by the fact that he leads them for all those years and then isn’t able to go into the promised land with them–also sort of parental in a way. I do love my son unconditionally, and one of the most intense pieces of that is realizing that one day I will not be able to go any further on his journey with him.

    aaaand now I’ve totally bummed myself out. 🙂

  30. The more I think about unconditional love (and I agree with you- it’s perhaps most applicable to parents and their children), I begin to wonder if there isn’t linchpin of narcissism holding it all together. They say you can’t really love someone until you love yourself (which you noted), so if you’re loving someone, then you must also love yourself. And if you’re really really loving someone, then you must see a lot of yourself in who they are. The way I’m seeing it is a bit more complicated than that, but that’s probably the clearest I can articulate what is really just a jaded person’s questioning of love in general.

  31. I have it with my pets. I have it with a few friends, but most people are too fucked up to give it. I can sometimes give it, but not 100% of the time.
    xoxo

  32. Unconditional love doesn’t always mean it will be shown. Some people are constitutionally unable

  33. …which is why I am a Cat Person. Unconditional Love–a la dogs–is too much pressure for me. I like an expression of Complete Disdain every now and again. Keeps me grounded.

  34. I loved this post.
    Unconditionally.

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