I have been thinking about my great uncle Louis today.
Louis was married to my Great Aunt Margie and it is with her that they built a business called “The House of Books LTD” which sold modern first edition books. Their shop which was on the 8th Floor of a building at 61st and Madison became a salon of sorts for important authors who had an interest in books and literature. They counted among their friends and customers notables such as Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliott, Robert Frost, Carl Sanderg, Ezra Pound, and Tom Stoppard. Their catalog was an event in the world of letters….
I never met Louis. He had died shortly before I was born but from what I understand from the recollections from my Aunt and my mother who adored him, he had lived a very interesting life. He was an early volunteer in the first world war. He became an officer in the French Army and was awarded many medals for bravery including the Legion of Honor. (I can remember being fascinated by his medals as a young boy as they were kept in a glass covered table in my Aunts living room.) After the war he moved to Paris, and like many of the so called lost generation, tried to find his soul after the most horrible war ever fought. It is here that I believe he made his contacts that would later become his business. It is also in Paris where I think he became a bit of a philosopher.
I can remember being in my Aunt’s shop sometime in my early 20’s looking at these books that were dedicated to him and asking my Aunt about him. She was, as I described, a bird like woman, very small, with dark curly hair and thick glasses and slightly crossed eyes. Not the most attractive woman you have ever met but very sweet and with a real sense of style and when ever she would talk of her late husband she would glow. I can remember telling me how handsome he was and how strong and how he had swept her off her feet. That part of the story never changed. However, she told me more on this particular day. Perhaps it was because I just graduated from college and she thought that I should know more or perhaps she was just in the mood to reminisce about an earlier simpler time of her life.
We were sitting at her desk, bookshelves all around, and some Danish butter cookies from a tin on a delicate china plate she had found in her desk. We were both drinking coffee from Chock Full of Nuts that she had insisted that we put into real coffee cups that were of the same pattern as the plate the cookies were on.
She began by telling me that it had been hers and Louis dream to start a book business.. They had literally hocked everything they owned, borrowed all they could from relatives and even some famous authors like Hemingway to start the business. Nobody thought they would succeed lest of all my Grandmother, her sister and things were not going well. It seems that they were suffering the slings and arrows of most new businesses. They had bought some books for too much and not sold enough of the others and it really looked like that the business was going to go under. One evening after doing the books she became very upset. Their balance sheet was telling her that if that if things did not change and change soon they would be bankrupt and not only would their dream be dead but also she would have to suffer the humiliation of her sister telling you “I told you so.”
She went to Louis intent on telling him the news but before she could get the words out she began to cry. My uncle took her arms and soothed her for awhile until she could talk and then asked her what was wrong? So she told him about their impending doom and all the fears she had.
It was at this point she interrupted her story to offer me another cookie and when I had taken one she said “Do you what Louis said then?”
I said “No What did he say…”
He said “That love would find a way…and you know it always did. We got out of that crisis when someone came off the street and bought some of the best things from our collections. From then on whenever we reached a rough spot, he would always say…Love would find a way. If you believe…it will find a way….
When I first heard that story, so long ago, I was cynical about its truth. My name may be Paul by I am not a “Paulyanna.” I believed then, as I do now, that not all stories have happy endings. Life and God have funny ways of dashing plans and ruining happy endings. Sad endings are a part of life. Ironically, they are the ones that makes us grow the most. The sad endings are what allow us to fully understand the value of what we have.
It seemed to me that the idea that love will find a way and the existence of bad fortune and sad endings were mutually exclusive. How could both exist within the same universe?
But age, and the maturity that it may bring, have a way of untangling confoundments.
I have come to believe that love will find a way. But it will not do it by itself. You need to work at it. Like most things in life it will not magically appear. You need to plan for it. Put yourself in the right place at the right time for it. Strive for it. Love, and its pursuit, is a motivation, not a destination.
Sad endings and disappointing news can serve, should serve, as superchargers for love. When something occurs in our life that is tragic, frustrating or disheartening, the people we turn to first are the people we love the most. They are the ones that help us untangle the wreckage wrought by broken hopes and dreams. Their love helps us find a way. Their love motivates us to find a way past this.
I was thinking about this last night.
Two weeks ago, today, I left Brazil to return to the United States. I very reluctantly left my wife behind. She was understandably reluctant to travel and expose herself to Covid19. While I needed to return to the US to take care of pressing business, she had no such pressure and as a consequence she stayed. The decision to part caused great angst on both our parts. We are better together and suffer when we are not. But our anguish was mitigated by the knowledge that Elaine had a reservation on American Airlines to come to the United States on July 6. Our separation had an end date and that made it easier coping
Last night American Airlines cancelled her flight. They do not anticipate and will not guarantee establishing service to Rio De Janiero until August. This was devastating news for both of us. We were told that for the foreseeable future RIOgaleão – Tom Jobim International Airport would be closed to travel for the United States. For Elaine to travel to the United States in July she would have to travel through Sao Paulo, the epicenter of the unchecked and unmeasured Covid 19 epidemic in Brazil which is unacceptable.
This is devastating news. We have for the 7 years of our marriage we have led a bi-continental relationship resulting in weeks and occasional months of separation, but we have always known when next we were going to be with each other. Now the only two things we know are the uncertainty of when we will see each other and the hole in our lives we will feel from not being together.
What I am sure of is Uncle Louis’s favorite maxim. Love will find a way.
If Elaine cannot find a way to me, I will find a way to her. I already hold a reservation on their first flight to Rio in August. And if that falls through, as AA reservation have been prone to as of yet, I will find another way. And I will find a way, to bring here back with me.
Because love will find a way.