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That's Amore

The nurse walks over to the father, who is sitting at the bedside of his wife, holding her hand. Hours before she had just delivered their first child.

She hands him the little cleaned-up bundle that is their daughter and explains that the baby is fit and healthy but just a bit jaundiced. With a tear of joy dad rises with his baby and steps to the window and as if on cue, the clouds part and the bountiful rays of sunlight come streaming into the room. It is as if God is shining brightly on this new life, this new family and this new day full of promise.

She is basked in the health-giving light and dad asks the nurse if he can just hold her in the sunlight to regulate her condition. The nurse smiles her assurance, and the new father settles into a nearby chair ready to accomplish his first parental chore.

As the years pass, dad will tell and re-tell that story of the first time he held and nurtured his little girl and she will grow to tell the story one day to her friends and probably her husband too.

Moments such as these create the family lore that sets a tone for living a life of quality, dreams and heart.

Make Your Choice

In the room next door sits another couple. She is asleep as the delivery was rough and she is exhausted. The new father is happily staring at the television because the cable's been out at home.

He's pretty bored as the delivery took all night and now she's just lying there sleeping while he's wide awake. The nurse walks in and makes a similar announcement about the jaundiced but

healthy child.

"Are you going to put her under those lights?" the father asks. "Yes, that's standard procedure," the nurse responds. The mother stirs and awakens. She is handed her baby which she clutches close and hands back to the nurse. She looks to her husband. He smiles at her, "You okay?" She nods. "Well, get some sleep and they'll bring her back later." She rolls over, spent. He changes the channel. He'd kind of hoped for a boy. The nurse leaves with the baby.

The difference between these couples is not education, class or financial status. In fact there is no indication of which couple comes from what background. All things are held the same except for one thing; the one thing that separates us all. The one thing that people rarely recognize is missing until it is too late; until the momentum of mediocrity in their lives drives them to divorce or substance abuse or cheating or depression or simply a life without color.

It is an elusive thing, this thing, but once you allow yourself to engage its power, you'll find it's a thing you should never be without and you wonder how you lived so far without it. Most will recall having it in their lives at some point but few can remember when they did away with it, saw no further need for it.

It is a very simple thing, this thing and it has virtually no cost. It is the driving force in your life that enhances the moment. It is the foundation of the happiness you experience when you achieve a promotion, fall in love, or choose which puppy you will take home.

As stated, there was some of it in your life at some point. Either grandma supplied it or some teacher that saw something special in you or some member of the opposite sex created a special valentine for you or if you're lucky enough, it comes through the person you married and started a new life with.

It is simply Romance my friends and it is the lifeblood to an existence worth living. It is, "the stuff dreams are made of." And what is life without dreams, without romance? From where I sit, it is not even a life worth enduring.

Now don't be fooled. Just because you notice a difference between watching an older couple get married with like their adult kids in the wedding and the "wide shot" behind the new bride and groom is really a "w i d e shot", if you know what I mean, and there ain't no way he's scooping up mama for a threshold dash… and then you compare it with the wedding of a petite little lass of 21 who shyly sneaks up the aisle where her tanned 25ish husband to be takes her arm and smiles and the crowd blushes and the preacher's face turns red when they kiss and the dad sheds a tear and all that magical looking stuff happens that doesn't mean you've necessarily defined romance.

Although that younger couple appears to have the "big mo" heading into life while that older couple is not quite as picturesque because that bald patch in the back of his head makes it especially tough to look prince charming-ish, that doesn't mean one automatically has a lock on romance and the other doesn't.

Fact is, it is likely that the older couple took another shot at marriage due to their addiction to romance or their continued search for it. The younger couple is probably more concerned with where their honeymoon is rather than what happens on it.

Pizza Delivery

Want to hear a really romantic story? I was about 16 and was working a summer job on a garbage truck for the city. My supervisor was in his late fifties and on this one particular morning he told me first thing that we had to really hustle today because he needed to leave an hour early for the day and that we would be taking lunch late.

We worked hard up until about 2 o'clock, parked the garbage truck, piled into his pickup truck and then he drove it through the car wash and we zoomed to his house.

He went inside while I ate my lunch in the truck and about 20 minutes later he came out freshly showered, hair all slicked to one side, a new bright red t-shirt tucked over his belly into his cleanest jeans. He even put aside the Budweiser belt buckle and put on a conservative "Buck Fever" one with a peaceful looking deer on it. Not since the funeral of the mayor's mother had he looked so nice.

When he got in the truck he reeked of Old Spice and his face was red where his usual stubble had been raked off. He clamored into the driver's seat, avoiding my eyes, and started driving.

I missed the corner of my sandwich and bit my finger with astonishment at his new look. I waited in the truck again while he stopped in front of the local grocery store and came out carrying a bouquet of flowers wrapped in plastic. He handed them to me and told me to peel the price tag off the plastic while he drove to the airport.

"Is today your anniversary?" I asked as I peeled. I'd gotten the tag off but the white part under the label was still stuck on.

"No," he said embarrassed, keeping his eyes on the road.

"Well Bernie," I said, "I gotta know what's going on."

"My wife's mother has been sick so she went to Florida to spend the week with her."

"Yeah, so?" I said.

"Well her plane lands in five minutes," he explained, cursing the traffic.

"So we're picking her up?"

"Yeah," he said.

"So why am I here?" I asked.

"So as I can park in front and you can sit in the truck behind the wheel whilst I goes and gets her and then she don't have to walk far. Remember son, ladies deserve things like that."

He pulled right in front of the airport passenger pick up doors and parked. He put the emergency lights on and told me to slide over behind the wheel. It was 1976 and they let you do that stuff at airports back then.

He stood outside the truck with the flowers in his hand and leaned against the door. He was trying so hard to look cool. The double doors whooshed open and there she was, his wife of 32 years.

I heard him gulp audibly as he stood and straightened himself. She bobbled a big bag of grapefruits as she opened her arms to embrace him and they stood there in a quiet hug for what seemed a whole minute. Not a big, sloppy public display of affection just a sincere embrace.

The bag handler put her luggage in the back of the pickup and Bernie opened the door for her. He came around to the driver's side and practically sat on my lap. He was so mesmerized by his wife he'd forgotten I was even there when he opened his door.

"In the back," he whispered.

I smiled at her and nodded to him and jumped in the back with the luggage. He put on their favorite radio station and she scooted close to him on the seat clutching the flowers, her head on his shoulder.

As we drove back to town I glanced through the back window into the cab from time to time and they weren't saying a word, just enjoying being back in each other's company.

Outside of my house the truck stopped and I jumped out, slapped the tailgate twice and watched them continue down the road, oblivious to me. I didn't really know it then, at 16, but I'd learned a lot on that day.

What do you want your life to include? Do you take the time in your life for romance or have you become too worn down by life to put forth any such effort. Do you say things to your spouse like,

"We don't need to buy Valentine's for each other any more, you know how I feel."

Or do you use such days as an opportunity to step out of your mundane existence and add some color to the day. If you've skipped romance or displaced it in your life for all the practical reasons in the world, I guarantee you that you've made life harder for yourself and the people you encounter.

A life filled with romance is a choice, not a right. But if you are in a relationship where your manner affects another, be it husband/wife, father/son, mother/daughter, brother to brother, friend to friend, and yes, even boss/employee or merchant/customer and your conduct has disabled the romance that still exists in the other person… shame on you.

In return you should expect a lack of creativity and sustained interest from most people you encounter. Step back and reassess, man. Have you filled your life with so much obligation and duty that you can't even see through those clouds any longer? Were you always so boring? Did you ever hear anyone at a funeral say, "She was great person, she kept a really clean house." Or, "He was a wonderful man, his lawn was always well edged." Do you think one woman ever said to another, "Oh Helen, when I see him asleep in his chair with that remote still in his hand and the drool running down his cheek I know what a lucky girl I truly am."

C'mon guys, catch a sunset tonight or maybe even a sunrise tomorrow. Take the risk of smiling recklessly. Tell someone important in your life that they look nice today. Surprise the gal at the fast food counter and tell her a joke while you're waiting for your fries.

Ray Bradbury once wrote, "And they were all, when their souls grew warm, poets." Let's take a gamble folks and warm those souls, huh?

Ronald D. Ciancutti is the purchasing manager for Cleveland Metroparks, a metropolitan park system that encircles Cuyahoga County and includes more than 20,000 acres of natural land, six golf courses, seven nature centers, a variety of special interest facilities and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Ron can be reached at rdc@clevelandmetroparks.com.

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