So, Just What is Love Anyway?

16 11 2014

I’ve been asked a question on several occasions about my Great Aunt Pearl, the woman who helped raise me and taught me so much about life and God, and her marriage to the man everyone knew as Price, someone who spewed hRock _nate and anger with almost every breath he took. So the question is this; how in the world could two people be so different and stay together like they did? That was one that certainly had me scratching my head on more than one occasion, I sure didn’t get it. He needed her tons more than she needed him, what kept her from not walking away and being happier without him? It was several years later with my Pearly Mae and I sitting at the kitchen table she explained to me the whys of her actions. But first I have to back up a bit, catch some of you up that don’t know the story.

Pearl and Price met in 1936 and shortly thereafter married. She was a beautiful dreamer with a radiant smile from West Virginia and he was a tall, handsome and rugged Kentucky man with stories of conquest and adventure that captivated my Great Aunt so that she felt and knew this was the man she wanted to spend her life with, to share in great quest with him. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long after they married that a new version of who this man was came forth. Price wasn’t good at holding jobs because of issues of anger and then later health problems; he was a serious diabetic and had to give up working altogether which meant Pearl was now the bread winner of the two. Time passed and her older sister died of cancer leaving three kids. The oldest joined the Marines and went to fight in WW2. The youngest went to live with another family member, this left only a girl who had physical and emotional issues, my mom, who Pearl took in and raised as her own. To cut to the chase some years passed and yours truly arrived on the scene. So the dreamer who visualized seeing the world and exploring new heights was now saddled with three people to care for.

If Price ever showed Pearl tenderness, it must have been before I came along; if he spoke soft, it was small talk subjects. The majority of the time he could be as hateful to her as he was mom and me. He was never physically abusive to her, but if he got mad (which was often) he would speak to her in such a hateful way I didn’t know how or why she put up with it. She would busy herself I think to keep from saying something back. I’d be mad at the way he talked to her, but Pearl would get me off in another room and say “Johnny, he’s only talking that way because he doesn’t feel good, he really doesn’t mean it.” I couldn’t figure that excuse out, but I wouldn’t argue; and I knew if I said something to him I’d get it twice as bad.

As time went on Price’s health started to diminish rapidly, to the point he could no longer get out of bed. His legs no longer could hold him up and he had to have constant bed care given to him by Pearl and my mom. I kept a distance from his room because even though his body was weakening his mouth and the venom he poured out still worked just as well, perhaps even better. Several days before he died, I had to go in and see him where he threatened me to grow to be a good man or else; I just turned around and walked out without ever saying a word. That would be the last I’d ever see of the man called Price.

So now we’re back to where I brought you into this story, Pearl and I sitting at the kitchen table several years after Price was gone. I brought up how I reacted to him on his last days and was feeling a little remorse from my hard heartedness. Pearl began staring out the kitchen door like she was concentrating on something off in the distance. There was a noticeable time of silence between us, but then she began. “His last words to me were the gentlest and sweetest I had heard in years. “I want you to know that I love you and always have,” he said. I thought that must have been a great moment between the two of them, but then she went on. “I couldn’t say anything at first, but then I told him the way I’ve stayed and taken of you should tell you how I feel about you.” Another pause, “I just couldn’t bring myself to say I loved him.” Wow, and I thought my reaction to old Price was bad! Here his wife of 30 plus years was telling him she might have taken care of him, but it sure didn’t mean she loved him–or did it?

I read these words not too long ago: “Love is not an affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as it can be obtained”

As the years went on, Pearl told me stories of Price I had never heard that brought a smile to her face as she recounted them. She told of when his health turned to where he couldn’t work anymore, he was the one that connected her to the civil service where the two of them traveled across the country working different jobs for the war effort, and her finally getting to see sights and places she had only dreamed of. Price and that experience taught her how to use a hammer, a saw, and even a welder. She told how he and those experiences taught her about being self-sufficient and self sacrificing in preparation of a better tomorrow. She also talked how she never really loved nature and the outdoors until she met Price, the one place he was happiest and most content; and how after that she couldn’t get enough of it. In those last years she wore herself out working and taking care of Price, often going on just a few hours sleep before starting a new day. She’d look at me with some mischief and determination in her eyes and say, “That’s what made me so strong!”

When my beloved Aunt Pearl retired and moved back home to West Virginia, she rededicated her life to Christ and set forth to be one of the best hostesses the area had. She loved to surround herself with laughter and happiness as often as she could, something else she attributed to her man, for he did enjoy having folks over.

G.K. Chesterton said this; “To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.”

Price was a harsh man who treated his family with cruelty, including the one he called his wife. When his days were closing out, that wife couldn’t bring herself to say she loved him, so does mean she didn’t? There was a time I would have said yes; but that was before I knew my Pearl’s heart and her ways. She taught me love wasn’t summed up in a few words, it was lived out day by day in your heart and your attitude, something I believe she learned from the one she called Lord (Check out John 3:16 and John 15:13)

In 1984 we lost Pearl in a tragic car accident, her Travels on the Rock Road were now over; but two things happened. Pearly Mae Marshall Price came into the presence of her Savior, Jesus Christ happy to be with her eternal love. The second, what remained behind was laid to rest on a hillside in Princeton, West Virginia next to her earthly “Love,” Arthur Chester Price.

See you next time!


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