Love Is / by Sarah Schwartz

I.

I believe it was the great philosopher Liz Lemon who once said,

"Love isn't judgmental. Love is patient. Love is weird and sometimes gross. Love is elusive. And you found it. So treasure it."

And while I'm fairly certain that Liz was referring to romantic love, I think her words capture the nature of other kinds of love, too—which is why, love is weird kept running through my head while visiting my brother and his family this past weekend in Minnesota.

Because why the hell else would someone fly to Minnesota in January if not for the weirdness that is love?

Nothing has taught me more about love than the circumstances that brought me a big brother the summer I was twenty. Congratulations, it's a boy, and he's 31. (I've written about the details here, here, and here if that sentence makes your head spin a little. It still does mine, sometimes.)

And so last week I packed the warmest coat I could find in my southern California wardrobe, (a thin red number I haven't had reason to wear in five years, that would prove to not be nearly warm enough) and hopped on a plane to the Twin Cities.

II.

The first time I spoke to my brother on the phone, I was sitting crisscross on the hardwood floor of my childhood bedroom, trying to play it cool and not burst into tears every other word. I was elated to hear his voice, and completely overwhelmed with all the things I wanted to know and tell him. Eventually the tears won out, and I sobbed into the phone something about how much I loved him, that he could trust us, and that we wouldn't hurt him. Sometimes love looks like that.

And that love, it was true and real and good. I meant what I said with every inch of me, and I still do.

But love asks more of us than initial proclamations, doesn't it? It asks us to do them justice by showing up, to lend weight to our words with our hands and our feet and our presence.

III.

For the past four summers, my parents, sister, and I, have spent a week on Lake Minnetonka, 30 minutes or so from where my brother & his family live. The first few trips were wonderful, yet awkward—everyone was holding their breath, afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. But we kept coming back, and slowly, it got easier.

Sometimes, I wonder if my brother is surprised by the fact that we keep coming back with such regularity. I wonder if he was afraid that after the excitement of making initial contact, we'd shrug our shoulders at the thousands of miles between us, and stop trying so hard to know him, chalking it up to being busy or not knowing what to do from here.

I wonder if he expected us to stop calling or sending birthday cards, like finding him was the closing of a chapter, rather than the beginning of a new one.

IV.

Love is patient and weird and sacred and work. It is slow and extraordinary and ordinary. It is made up of thousands of small choices, and as Shauna Niequest says, it is being present over perfect.

It is memorizing the names of each other's best friends.

It is asking about first heartbreaks, first concerts, first soccer goals.

It is brushing my niece's hair after swim lessons.

It is conversations about the weather and confessions of fears.

It is throwing a nerf football with my nephew. For hours.

It is that same nephew looking up at me with his big eyes and asking if he can hold my hand as we walk through the snow to the car.

It is remembering that this is not about you. (Sarah, read that again. It is not about you.)

It is 2:00am dance parties in kitchens and quiet drives to the airport.

It is showing up, again and again and again.