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Wonderful Wandering: Lessons on Love from Steve and Sam

Michelle Rowley - Saturday EssayLearning lessons in love from my parents’ relationship was nearly impossible. They were a couple if ever in love, fell out of love long before the sperm hit the egg that created me.

But my father Steve, a very logical accounting professor, taught me much about love. That it is a force of nature, learned through our adventures in woods and canyons. If you get caught up in a storm, make sure you have a sturdy Hefty trash bag to wear, a flashlight, and wait it out in a cave. Always carry toilet paper because you never know when you will have to clean up the crap you’ve created. In other words, like nature, love is unpredictable; he thought it best to prepare logically.

This brings me to Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World,” a song which deeply perplexes my father. As I was growing up, every time this song came on the radio my father would begin a conversation. I was unsure if he was speaking to Sam, God, the Universe, or me. My father has a tendency to think aloud, usually the same string of comments or questions sparked by the same stimulus. “Wonderful World” is one of those stimuli that baffle him.

Don’t know much about history? Don’t know much about biology? This song is an anthem for ignorance!” my father would declare every single time it played on the radio. “I do not understand how one could boast such lack of knowledge as a love song!” I believe his hope was that I would take this message to heart and logically choose my love partners. But my heart is illogical, and most of the time so is my head. I’ve found that my mind, like some parts in the wild, is a place best traveled with a guide. And my heart? It simply wants “one and one is two” and “if this one could be with you what a wonderful world this would be.”

Logic, love, and Sam, however, have either all failed me, or love is so vast and mysterious that it will never be solved by an equation. One and one does not always equal two, many times in love it ends up equaling one, and one. I’ve gone through a tree’s worth of toilet paper cleaning up mine or the other’s emotional crap left behind in relationships. I’ve illogically and willingly wandered into love’s wilderness, without flashlight or rain gear, then end up surprised when I’m hit by a storm.

My ability to break my own heart is infinite. The only loves I know to be unconditional are that of my father, my son, and my creator. And like Sam, I still don’t know what a slide rule is for. I do know that if my father could compute the outcomes of my relationships in an Excel spreadsheet and graph the probabilities of success, he would.

Until love and logic fit perfectly on the spreadsheet of life, I will continue to illogically wander in the wild, preparing for the outcome but open to amazement — which means I’ll open myself to heartache too. Like Sam, “I don’t claim to be an A student, but I’m trying to be.” And like my father, I’ll continue to carry toilet paper in a zip-locked bag, just in case.

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