Tag Archives: loving

The Familiarist.


She stood, at the doorway, in full deja vu.

Surveying the dog sheet curled over the pillows, the rumpled blue and brown fleece. The little bowls, on the dresser. The three, inverted, grey and white socks, on the floor just near the child’s rattan chair draped with those pewter hued gym pants which always fit her just when she needed them.

The hallway, dog bone chards embedding in the terry tufted rugs from Ollie’s. Stand alone heater, always almost enough to cut that blood clotting, bone deadening chill. The Young Chang, hopelessly out of tune, against the central wall.

She’d had that old workhorse for nearly thirty years. Almost feeling again the giddy suspension of all reason which had moved her to hire the guy to haul it all the way out to this living room, even her own piano had become part of the deep, inextricable familiarity of these surroundings.

Familiar meant comfortable. Comfortable meant secure. Secure meant the hope of enduring life. How does one turn away?

Little Fitz Willie the cat, silent. Imploring. Bella wriggling. Brody gazing. The birds.

She loved. Like the earth, under foot.

His grandfatherly, cumin scent. Stumbling to the kitchen, hair Kewpie coiffed, for the ground morning cup. Crouched, ready for the bathroom well before she would ever be. Grousing, endlessly, in glorious malcontentment, through an entire day and into the end of it.

This couldn’t be the end, of anything. She knew it all, too well.





© 2/20/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.    Please respect the author’s story. Thank you.




The Difference.

The sheets and blankets rolled into their customary clump again, like a load of laundry waiting to be sorted. There was the top sheet, placed to protect the rest from animal dander; the knit blanket; the small downy; and, somewhere impossible to determine, the sheet intended to cover the body directly – never found, just felt, in a tangle, around the calves.
At her frustration, he cursed, and tossed them all on top of her, four frozen minutes later getting out of the bed and heading to the kitchen. He was finished sleeping, after all, and it was morning on his day off; five in the morning, but morning in his world, just the same.
She really had no definition of love, apart from her own experience; as such, it likely differed from everyone else’s. When she awoke in her morning, her first thought was usually about what she could do. Might she help clean, or find something else practical that should make all his days off easier before the inevitable return to the grind? Maybe there was a gadget to acquire, or some task she could cover; maybe a food, or a practice, that could increase the quality of his health or environment.

Then, she’d set about to do it. She’d think about what she could do, for him, and then she’d do it.

Granted, sometimes there was a failure to recognize how he might want to spend a day, or how he might want to do something or have something done. Her desires for him, in conflict with those for himself.

This is how love was expressed toward her, indeed the only way it was ever expressed in her family, and that by the mother; Great-Gramma, Mammy and then mum were ever about doing what would keep the family going – sustained, protected, cared for. It was the definition carried down by her family, and its small, exclusive, Fundamentalist fellowship; a woman, after all, born to serve.

She, however, had inherited at least half of her father’s DNA and he was nothing if not independent-minded. While primitive in scope, he’d much preferred exactly the way HE did things, even when his wife felt differently about the quality of either his efforts or his choices.

And, that had been their fifty-plus years together; mum, serving what she determined to be dad’s needs, and he serving himself.

She couldn’t think of a single thing that dad ever did for mum. Ever. Perhaps he’d tried, early on – only to be met by her bitter ridicule of the quality thereof. Yes; that was mum – a child of the Great Depression, who’d been raised to perform tasks for her very survival. There was nobody else who knew how any better than she, and she made sure that everybody knew it.

Now, she could hear him, even with the bedroom door closed, emptying the dishwasher of its cutlery – each fork and spoon, dropping into its slot in the drawer, like water torture during World War II, she envisioned, tightening her arms over both ears. Even in spite of his particular family dynamic – absent biological father, present if abusive step dad – he’d been raised to expect a woman to care for his needs, and to place them at the top of her agenda. Even when he didnt want her to, he still ultimately expected it.

This was generational. Eventually, many women got wise to the fact that, unless they did for themselves, nothing they really wanted out of life would come to them. That was when they began to put aside enough money to buy their own cars, and then their own homes, and to make lives for themselves.

Others continued in the tradition of their forebears, by: attracting the man they’d selected; manipulating him into supporting them; and, getting their needs met through him indirectly without his realizing —  including going elsewhere, behind his back, to get what he could not or would not offer, all within the framework of the life they’d maneuvered for themselves.

But, she was part of the generation of women which broke ground and established separate identities. In her case, truly believing that she would attract a man of such quality that he would actually want an independent female who would share in the load of life. Yeah; that.

That was her generation, and it pretty much left the men who were her contemporaries blindsided; who would be left to care for them, in the manner to which they had become accustomed?

In an effort to feel worthy, her generation of men had become the step-dads of their era. The new step dads – not like those of their own, bitter experience. They’d become the ones who rode in on their steeds, fully armored, ready to love both the single woman AND her brood of offspring left by the deadbeat in his wake. Hence the acronym: SMILF (and, the title of the new Tv show): Single Mother I’d Love to F@$k.

This was hard. The women watched, from inside the houses they’d bought and the full time jobs maintained, as the vast majority of their own men selected “unwed” or divorced mothers instead of independent women to care for and love.

It didn’t surprise her, at all then, that he remained curious about his ex’s daughter, even after the death of the girl’s mother. Neither was she surprised when he became annoyed every time she asserted a need of her own, however small or petty it may have seemed to him.

Unclasping her arms from about her head she shoved away the mound of covers and sat up, her aging, overtired body fighting to right itself. His mattress, designed to absorb the body’s configuration, had no rebound capacity. On this morning, even the bed was no help.

Playing second, third, even fourth – behind the dogs, the cat and the laying hens –  on this morning, her reality had come home to roost. Only she wasn’t home. Not really.  There was an old, displaced farmhouse about eighteen minutes northwest, one she’d acquired at age twenty nine for thirty four five at eight and a quarter fixed; paying on the principal each month, she’d become its owner in just under sixteen years. For her purposes, the location had been ideal; under ten minutes, in any direction, to get anywhere in town. On this morning, still very much the middle of her night, its walls were calling. Her house, her spouse.

She just had to get back to her established domain, and nurture it for herself. Today, she must. She had learned that, in spite of the overwhelm left in its neglected wake, that home was still her own. Her comfort zone wasn’t built for her; judged however by the outside world, she. had. built. it.

Yes, she had built it, just like he had built his own. The difference was: having spent a lifetime waiting for somebody to express as much interest in trying to care for her needs and enhancing the quality of her life as she did for the man for whom she now felt love, per this morning it appeared that she was still waiting.

Perhaps he did truly love her. Maybe tomorrow, she would know. But, even in the cold car, she could already feel it. Her bed. One warm flannel, and a fleece.



© 11/30/17  Ruth Ann Scanzillo    All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Thanks for being that good person.


“Is love a binder of wounds?

…or, merely a lubricant on a squeaking part?

…..or, an element of transition from rough to gem?……”

——  David Michael Sammarco  ©12/1/17



© 11/30/17  Ruth Ann Scanzillo      All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thanks for being that good person.


“All You Need is Love”.

“I love you.”

For every time I’ve either said the words or heard them directed toward me, I can honestly say that, in retrospect, each experience has left me more baffled than the last.

Historically, the term has gone through several incarnations. A few of these have endured, mostly in the annals of cultural lore.  Eros; Philios; Agape – to name a familiar few.

Strangely, the Mediterranean region seems to have a corner on its multiple expressions. I say this because one only has to observe the social coastline of that sea to find more versions of alleged love than ever found their place in a Harlequin romance novel.

Privately, I have reached this tentative conclusion:  Love has no fixed definition, beyond that which is expressed in the way one person makes another feel.

Once we recognize and feel that we are loved BY someone else, then we know what love is.

We really can’t say we love another, other than ourselves, until that other person tells us, emphatically:  “Yes!  You love me. I know this, because I feel loved by you.

Civilized society has always taught that love is a very powerful emotional force, a state to be sought after and nurtured. But, if love is so powerful, why isn’t its force self-sustaining?

We adore babies. Most of us are drawn to wrap ourselves around them and give them our all. Love for helpless children, borne in healthy adults, seems automatic. But, the care of babies is a consummate effort, and requires a level of devotion which challenges even the most convinced.

I imagine that parental love, as children grow to adulthood, is an extension of that automatic attachment which is borne at the child’s birth. As such, children who are wrestling into emerging adults often do not FEEL loved by their parents, because their parents’ love for them is still infantile – locked in the automatic phase of parental attachment. (The Greeks have a word for that, too; and, I wonder if its definition is also fixed.)

Does love “grow”? What about it does the growing? Does being drawn to another increase, over time, and by what criteria? How is it that we can feel more – or, less – loved by another, as we move from the present to the future? Perhaps, rather than actually “growing”, the feeling that we are loved merely changes in dimension and, that, according to our perception of ourselves and others.

Lately, I have speculated that parental love for children does not move in tandem with the child’s growth; I think it arrests, causing all sorts of problems for the children. Parents who are mindful, however, learn to adjust their behavior, in order to permit their children the necessary growth. But, their feelings toward the children remain in that infantile state.

And, this brings me to the first point I want so to make clear: Human NEED is paramount. Need is so huge, so great in its capacity to render us vulnerable, that I sometimes wonder if it masquerades as Love.


We’ve all known strong attraction. The first time such chemistry overwhelms us, we clamor to define it for ourselves. Surely, we must be in love. We read about it, somewhere, in a book by Grace Livingston Hill. And, the object of our attraction, if and when that person turns toward us, moving toward us, allows us to be utterly taken by the belief that we are loved, in return. Or, maybe, we simply don’t care; just the realization, that the object of our desire has rewarded our attraction with a response, is more than enough. This must be love. We’ll take it.

But, is it need?

When we have a gaping need ( a need to be appreciated, a need for physical affection, a need for comfort, a need for company, whatever the need) , and somebody appears, bringing even a fleeting imitation of our notion of love, wanting to become attached to us in some way, we seize upon that person, eagerly expecting to be loved.

And, when TWO people, with similar, gaping need, converge……..they might very well convince themselves that they love each other !

So, many humans couple up, under all the conditions described above, and any number of various corollaries of that which is described above. And, all these couples THINK that they love each other.

And, then they proceed to live.

And, as they live, they grow.  But, each of them grows at a different rate. One may cease growing completely, for a time, while the other may have a huge growth spurt. Whichever the case, the two people – who think they love each other – eventually find themselves at odds. Their notions of love have all fallen away, and they are left confused and disappointed.

Yet, the needs remain. And, the desire for the feeling of being loved remains, too.

And, so, they reach for the nearest living being willing to provide what they need most immediately. Pets – dogs. Children. Artistic endeavor. Everybody finds somebody, or something, that brings them emotional satisfaction. It’s easy to feel loved by music, or art, or poetry, or dance, or drama. Dogs. Even children, when they are young and dependent.

I can’t begin to defend my failures in the loving people department. All I can do is observe others, and draw conclusions. And, identify those who make me feel loved, by their actions.

I think that any parent, possessing an unfulfilled need, will attach to his or her child in an attempt to get that need met. Perhaps it is a need for appreciation, or acknowledgement, or affirmation, or affection, or emotional attachment – any or all of the above. If, for example, a father is physically absent, a mother may attach to her child all the attributes of loveworthiness. She transfers her affections from the object of her desire to the object of her devotion. And, another father – perhaps his wife is physically withholding. He becomes notably affectionate toward the child who is most accessible. The child in this equation develops a notion of love that is informed and colored by his or her parent’s behavior. And, perhaps more importantly, the child develops a response which casts its own hue.

In families with more than one child, each child according to birth order develops his or her own notions of love. First born children may grow to expect to be loved, by entitlement, and treat others according to that expectation. Second born children might grow to perceive that love is a feeling bestowed upon an elder sibling first, and learn to observe the process of love without allowing themselves the opportunity to directly experience it. Such children may become able to counsel others in matters of love, while being removed from the feeling of being loved, or grow to defer the feeling, as if somehow someone else should always be first in line to receive it.

Youngest children may grow to believe that love comes automatically, with the territory, so to speak, due to being immersed in an environment of general acceptance and affection. Perhaps such children have a more difficult time with notions of monogamy, being more comfortable in an atmosphere of collective love.

The most heartbreaking scene is one wherein a parent, due to emotional or mental illness, is unable to bond with the child that, together with a partner, they have brought into the world. How do such children develop a personal definition of love, or ever know when it comes to them?

My father was born in a Massachusetts sanitarium. His mother, deemed unable to bond, was not permitted to raise him; rather, he was removed from her at birth, and placed in both foster care and, ultimately, an institution for wards of the state. His stories of his own childhood were always vivid. One of the most memorable was his recounting of two women in the charge of the boys his age. He recalled that they were partners, one of them mean and harsh, known to pinch the boys in their ribs as they sat at table, and the other sweet and adoring. He had one experience with the sweet woman that he was fond of repeating; he remembered the day she put her arms around him, and held him close. He said that this was the first time he had ever been hugged. He was 10 years old.

Yet, my father was among the most spontaneously affectionate people any of us ever knew. He was, in a word, adorable. How did he learn to make another feel loved? Interestingly, in matters of temporal need, Dad made almost no demands. A dry roof over his head, a hot meal, shoes and clothes…..the man was happy. He expected only the basics, and so his needs were regularly met. Because he had need of nothing, he gave continuously, from the depths of his heart.

Our mother’s story was vastly different. Her perception of our father’s capacity for making her feel loved was colored by her family climate and resultant self image. She brought an endless list of expectations and needs into her pairing with Dad. And, none of these were the result of selfish pride or traits which would easily be judged as self serving. But, as a result, she gave of herself in totality to her family, deferring all personal need satisfaction for the sake of those of each of her children. My love for her was unable to express itself in a way which could make her feel loved, and this realization was a source of private agony in my life.

So, how do we love? Do we say “I love you”, and hope to sound convincing? Do we, instead, refrain from any declaration, providing instead all the actions of our hearts – first, recognizing the other, empathizing with the other’s matrix of desires and interests, then setting about to fulfill a need we see in the object of our adoration? Or,  do we fulfill our own needs, first, so that we can distinguish between what we need and the power of loving another? Perhaps we might avoid actions toward others which only fulfill our need to force an attachment. Perhaps we might focus, instead, on giving what the objects of our desire and affection genuinely seek, without their having to ask, before they recognize a need at all.

We are exhorted by Jesus in the Biblical scriptures to love one another. But, I don’t find any scriptural references to actually making the declaration. John was the disciple “whom Jesus loved.” This meant that John, or the rest of the collective, recognized that Jesus loved him. Jesus is never quoted as having said: “I love John.” Rather, I find a life – Jesus’ short, earthly life, and – as Christians would define it – his sacrificial death, as embodied testament. Perhaps if we are mindful, attentive, and sensitive to that which convinces the other rather than ourselves, and live the giving, we will feel loved in return. And, then, we can say to our beloved:  “Thank you for loving me.”






© Ruth Ann Scanzillo

8/11/15  All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Sharing by direct, WordPress.com ReBlogging, only. Thank you, dear readers.