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The Tax on Love


I was recently reminded by an old neighbor of something that became a bit of a running joke in our neighborhood when we were kids. I would be off gallivanting with friends, sometimes close to half a mile from home, and my mother’s bellow would waft through the air like the cry of a Valkyrie.


“Michael!”


“What?” I didn’t have the lung capacity she did (surprising, considering she smoked over a pack a day), but she always seemed to hear my response.


“Come home now!”


“5 more minutes?”


“No!”


The joke was that it was such a standard pattern of back and forth, my responses became a joint effort with whatever friends I was with that day. There were also times I was simply out of even her bellowing range, but I learned I could rely on any kids closer to my house to answer on my behalf. To this day, I’m not sure my mother knew it was sometimes not me on the other end of the shouting.


Of course, regardless of whether I heard her and personally responded, I generally took more than five minutes to go home. Sometimes, much more. But hell, I was a kid, knee deep in kid shenanigans. And my mother was a patient woman.


But I’ve been thinking about that ‘five more minutes’ as I approach the seventh cycle around the sun since Mom moved to Florida. I think of her, my stepsister who died last year much too young, and all the other folks that have moved on over the years. I’m not alone or unique in experiencing loss, obviously. It’s part of life. But it brings to mind something I heard a minister say last week.


Grief is the tax on love.


What a beautiful, and poignant statement.


No one enjoys paying taxes. And when the tax is for something you don’t get or no longer have, it could be viewed as exemplifying the unfairness of life.


I’m taking a different approach. I’m thinking about…


A chorus of kids shouting and laughing, ‘Five more minutes?’


A sister’s painstaking creation of a handmade stained glass lazy susan to give my wife and me as a wedding present.


A very old, in every sense of the word, friend who started as the scourge of neighborhood kids, washing our baseballs down the sewer or keeping them if they came in front of his house and who ultimately became my oldest child’s godfather.



…And so many other memories. It’s a heavy tax, to be sure. And it also isn’t a one and done, unfortunately, but over time, hopefully, it stops taking emotional center stage.


So the memories, they remain. As does the love.


Given the two choices, I’ll pay the tax, and keep paying every time it comes due. Not happily but knowing at least that it is a tax worth paying.

 

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