Love has no dimensions. It cannot be measured, boundless as it is. But I have felt lately that perhaps length is the best of all love’s rough estimates. What are the lengths to which someone goes for love? How long does love last, how far through difficulty will it carry us? How far behind us will it trail after we’ve left this world behind?
What is the length of love?
I give up nearly every weekend in the summer. I rise at 4:00 am, and sometimes earlier, to load my horse onto a trailer and head to a horse show. I will get to the show grounds around 6:30 am and be on my horse by 7:00 am where I’ll exercise him and school him over some jumps. Then I will pace the show grounds with my horse to keep him moving and allow him to graze, all the while trying to keep him out of my lunch, keep him hydrated, and keep him from knocking over my folding chair. My horse is a bit of a jerk, by the way. He dares not miss an opportunity to get yelled at. My divisions are usually the last to run, which means some days I don’t ride until 3:00 or 4:00 pm.
I will be dirty, and sunburned, and smell of manure by day’s end. My feet will ache, my heels will be blistered, and I’ve bid adieu to the chance of ever again having hands that don’t look like a mechanic’s. On top of this, I will need to trailer my horse home, unload the trailer, wrap my horse’s legs in bandages to prevent their swelling post-competition, put all my tack away, and then make the 40-minute drive back to my house where my husband will be waiting with my children who haven’t seen me since yesterday.
It’s an exhausting and expensive way to spend the day. It requires many sacrifices.
But I go to great lengths for my horse and my sport, because I love them so much. Even when I lose.
Of her sport, I asked my daughter recently, “If you lose, do you love it enough to keep doing it?”
She said yes, because she loves it that much.
At the fairgrounds on Saturday, six-year-old Jesse was harnessed into straps, and climbed a 20-foot tree run as a carnival attraction. He stopped his skyward trekking momentarily to call down that he was scared.
“You can do it!” I yelled up at him. “You can stop at any time, but I know you can do it, Jesse!”
The rush and the height and the love of a challenge propelled him, and he climbed its whole length. Because he loved it.
On the same Saturday, 10-year-old Noah stood solid on the defensive line under an unforgiving sun during his lacrosse tournament – one of three games in two days; challenging for a neuro-typical child, extra-challenging for one who struggles with concentration and attention.
He didn’t complain about his fatigue or his pain. He pushed for his best, but could not defend for a win. He left the field smiling anyway. Because he loves it.
When I lose battles for, and with my children, will I keep pressing forward?
Yes, because I love them that much. Because there is no end to my love’s length.
To what lengths will I go for the boys that need me even more, because of their autism and their unique, unchanging needs? To every, single one.
To the lengths that are close, and easy. To the lengths that are far, and arduously long. To the ones that make my bones weary because they are repeated over, and over, and seem to make no difference. To the ones that make my heart hurt, and my eyes sting with tears. To the lengths that make me wonder how many more times I can teach them how to tie their shoes, or the ones that require breaking up another fight, or the ones that make me worry the news will be bad because I fear my soul cannot withstand it.
I will go to every, single length. Even when I lose. I do it with joy.
Because love is just that long.
Mother is messy. But it’s better that way.