“The person you fall in love with is a reflection of who you really are.” ~ Mazel Ozbek
Sometimes someone says such simple words to us that they are able to break open our reality.
I was always close to my grandmother, or Bopshe, as I called her, which was her name in Polish. She was short, round and always seemed to smell like rose petals and rye bread from the local bakery.
Without realizing it at the time, she shaped so much of the woman that I am today.
We spent rainy afternoons painting seashells with pastel nail polishes, and sunny afternoons walking around her backyard, feeling the way the fresh grass tickled our bare feet. She would pick parsley and tell me to close my eyes and let its tangy bitterness wash over my tongue.
And in the summers she would take my hand and we would run into the cold waters of the Atlantic, diving under the rolling waves pretending that we would swim forever.
I understand now that she taught me about the magic in life.
So when a few years back it became apparent that she was nearing the end of her life, I was devastated. I knew even before losing her that when she passed I would be losing a part of myself.
She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but thankfully it progressed slowly—although I don’t know if it’s ever easy to have someone who taught you about looking for shooting stars on sweltering summer nights begin to falter at knowing your own name.
At one point she was admitted to a local hospital because of her heart condition and I was terrified that was the end. She looked so small and frail underneath the thin white blankets that she hardly seemed to be the woman who would always call me her Kasha as she sat me down with a cheese Danish and asked me to tell her about my life.
But she was my Bopshe, and so there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do for her.
I spent every minute I could with her, leaving work on lunch breaks and bringing nail polish and lavender essential oils to help take away the hospital smell.
She had known my marriage was over, even though at that point she didn’t say as much—but that was always her way. It was like she knew that the best way for anyone to do anything was in their own time.
This was just one more lesson she taught me.
One day as I was sitting next to her painting her nails a soft pink, she started talking about love. She told me how she knew people fell in love for all sorts of reasons, and that many of those were enough to build a life upon, but that there was a difference in how happy that life actually ended up being.
She told me stories of her own love, and even after 60-plus years with my grandfather she began talking about a young man who had courted her during WWII. Her eyes misted over as she told me how they danced, and how he made her laugh—even after all this time, she still thought about him.
He was her “what if.”
He represented a completely different life than she had, and she knew it. It wasn’t that she regretted the life she chose, but there was something that still hung to her memories even all these years later.
It was at that point that she took my hand, and said, “Kasha, next time you follow your heart, don’t forget to take your brain with you.”
She knew that at 18, I not only didn’t take my head with me, I ignored it and flat out pretended I didn’t have one. See, that was always my problem with love—I never wanted to think about the practicalities of it because I was afraid that it would ruin the magic.
It’s been a few years since that day I spent with her on her hospital bed feeling the way she cracked open my heart with those simple words, but not a day goes by where I don’t think about her and the affect she had on my life.
And of course she was right.
When I fell in love as a child, I did so just because it was love and when someone asked me why I loved that person, I never had any reasons. But that’s the thing, when we forget to take our heads with us we also aren’t left with any concrete reasons why.
The years moved and passed and my heart began falling again after healing from my divorce—but this time was different. This was a different sort of love all together, not because it wasn’t passionate, but because it seemed that I could think of countless reasons why my heart had fallen for this man.
Was it because of his fancy car or big titles? No, but it was in the way that he helped so many and was willing to go out of his way for anyone. Was it because of big gifts and lavish surprises? No, but it was because of the small little things that he did to make my life and those around me just a little better, and maybe just a little bit sweeter.
Quite simply, I had fallen in love with this man because of who he was—not just because my heart wanted to love, but because it wanted to love him.
And it was then I truly learned that reality can be more magical than illusion of dreams.
There are never guarantees in love, and while not all loves are meant to be—I know that this time was different.
I know that my Bopshe was right, and that maybe I just needed to take my head with me when I followed my heart. Not to only be practical—because we all know that great loves seldom are—but because we all should be able to list reasons why we love someone.
As for me, I will always love my Bopshe because she quite simply showed me how to love.
“Most of all, let love guide your life.” ~ Col. 3:14
Author: Kate Rose
Image: Author’s own & Pixoto
Editor: Sara Kärpänen