Sunday, January 5, 2014

Philos? Eros? Agape? It's all love.

"You are my friend. I never knew it 'til then--my friend."

~ Patti LaBelle

Nearly every year we get away for a quick vacation over the New Year holiday. For eight plus years, my mother has magnanimously agreed to keep our children while we slip off for some adult time. And it's funny because I've always seen that time as about us. About my husband and me fanning the flames of our romance and chucking our cares aside long enough to dance to steel drums or salsa music or laugh out loud telling stories with our friends. We come back recharged, refreshed, and, in ways, renewed. Our hearts are reminded that before there was Manning, party of four, there was Kimberly--a girl and Harry--a boy.

Or rather (if you let the BHE tell it)  Kimberly--a grown-ass woman and Harry--a grown-ass man. Ha. Either way-- you get my point.

Anyway. Mom was kind enough to meet us at the house when we returned. The reunion is always delightful. Our boys always pounce on their daddy first and then follow up with kisses and hugs for me. And I never mind it one bit that it goes in that order because I think their daddy is pretty damn awesome, too.

So after Mom had taken off and everyone was settled down, Zachary and I were sprawled on the couch as we often do. We lay there chatting about this, that, and also the other. I told him about the big cruise ship that we were on and the neat places we saw. I showed him a picture of me eating a a piece of Key Lime Pie in the Florida Keys and how it somehow tasted better there. And he mostly just giggled when I said that because he thought a place being called "The Keys" was funny. He also isn't into sweets much so he didn't really care to know how tangy the zip on the end of each bite was or whether or not I savored the tiny sliver of real Key lime that came on top. Or even if it came with that sliver at all.

That would be more of an Isaiah question. He's the one with the sweet tooth and the one who'd get the significance of his mother enjoying a piece of Key Lime Pie in Key West. But I also loved that it was Zachary who'd laugh at the name "Key West" and ask if I'd brought him back a key chain. (I actually didn't, but immediately wished I had after he suggested it.)

My boys are so different. So remarkably, amazingly different. One so emotionally intelligent and tender-hearted. With a memory like a steel trap and reasoning skills that rival that of the oldest sage. Wired with his grandfather's and Auntie Deanna's analytical engineering mind and always looking to build or create something. That? That's my Isaiah.

And my baby boy? An absolute marcher to his very own drum. Confident, athletic and quick-witted. Determined, competitive, and fearless. Musical, boisterous and nearly impossible to embarrass. The one that his pre-school teacher dubbed "The Mayor" because his swagger was like that of a man who'd been elected by the people to lead. And that? That's my Zachary.

And so. Despite these stark differences, I've always been happy to see how much they're able to enjoy one another. How ready their smiles are and quick their compromises come when playing together. And just like I know their ways, I thought I knew their love. I thought I did.

But perhaps I did not. Not like I thought I did.

So that conversation I had with Zachary evolved from Key Lime Pie and fresh guacamole in Cozumel to other things. I yawned and asked him to tell me about his break. To tell me about what he did at Grandma's house and to tell me of the fun parts. And, like always, he answered his favorite reply to such a question:


And predictable me probed him to get at least one detail. Which yielded very little. Then I moved on to asking specifically about the things my mom had told me they'd done. Like see the motion picture "Frozen" and go to New Year's Day party. And that, too, was "good." So then I asked him a very simple question. One that wasn't meant to be deep or probing or any such thing. Just a mere attempt to keep the dialogue going from more than just me.

"Zachary? What was the best part of your time at Grandma's house?"

And when I said that, his face grew unusually serious. Then the right side of his mouth started twitching downward like it always does when he's about to cry about something. So I wondered if something happened or went wrong. Which wouldn't really make sense in the context of my question or where he'd been but I admit that I wondered it anyway.

"Zachary?" I studied his face carefully. His mouth kept quivering and he tried to talk but didn't. "What is it, son?"

"Nevermind," he said with a lopsided shrug. "I just don't know what I feel inside right now."

"Is something wrong?"

He answered quickly and shook his head for emphasis. "No, ma'am."

"Then why do you look like you want to cry? What was it about your time at Grandma's house that's making you feel that way?"

And he just stared at me with this very complex expression. Like he didn't fully understand how he was feeling and wasn't even sure where to start. Or if he should at all.

"Tell me, Zachary. What is it?"

And so he did. He told me what was on his heart.

"I just. . . I just. . . didn't do anything at Grandma's. . . . anything but. . . . but just be with my brother. That's all I did at my Grandma's house. And me and my brother we just played together and just were together all the time. And it was really, really fun to do that. And . . .I just. . . I just. . . Mommy, I just. . ."

At this point he couldn't talk anymore. His mouth fell open and nothing came out. And my baby boy broke down crying. Hard. I rubbed his back and encouraged him to go on. I told him it was okay and that I really wanted to hear what he had to say. Because I did.

And so he did.

"I just. . . I just really, really, really love my brother," he eked out between sobs. "My brother. . .my brother is. . .he's just the very best person I know and I-I-I just love him so, so, so much. More than anybody else. More than anyone. And, I'm sorry Mom but even more than you and my Dad." My mouth twitched in a little smile when I heard that part but I knew not to go any further because this was a serious moment. I listened as he went on. "He's just my very best friend. And . . .we just played together at Grandma's. Like some video games and other stuff. And I just like it when I get to be. . .get to. . just be with my brother. Because . . . because. . . when I . . ."

Again his voice trailed off as he paused to cry some more. He panted for a few moments and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. I listened patiently while he finished.

"Just. . .when I. . .when I look in my brother's face. . .I just feel really, really good. Like I just feel so happy when I look in his face." When he said "really, really" and "so happy" he cried even harder. I felt my chest beginning to heave, too as he continued. "And I don't know why I'm crying. I'm not sad. I just. . .I just like to be with my brother. He's just the very best person I know and I just. . .I just love my brother so, so much."

And with that he buried his face into the crook of my arm and wept. Hard and with everything in his little soul. He sure did.


Lord knows that he wasn't the only one shedding some tears. I didn't even know what to say. So I just hugged him tight and rocked him close to my chest. I told him over and over again how happy this made me and how glad I am that he knows how much of a blessing it is to have a brother like Isaiah. And he said he does know which only made us weep more.

And you know? My children are different. See, Isaiah would have immediately drawn the corollary to Auntie Deanna and what this meant about how I felt when she left us. He would have started a whole new, fresh set of tears triggered by a separate set of emotions. But not Zachary. All he knew in that moment was that his seven year-old heart was full to the brim. His bucket of love for his big brother was overflowing and that having this uninterrupted time with him had done him a world of good.

And that? That was okay with me. In fact it was more than okay. I loved that this moment was his. It was about him and how he felt and not anything else. And that it was about love. A love so intense that he could barely even explain or contain it. A love for his very first and very best friend--his brother.

Philos love, the Greeks called it. That special love between brothers, sisters, friends and dear ones. A love distinctly different from the romantic or Eros love that Harry and I sneak away to rekindle each year. And, by definition, of another nature than that Agape love apparently reserved by God and unattainable by others.

Or is it? They say that the Agape love is a spiritual one. Built on a love that cannot be shaken or altered by anything. One on planes higher than any worldly loves that any of us mere mortals will ever know. That is, according to the original definition.


When I looked into my baby boy's eyes and listened to him speak of his love for his brother? It was more than brotherly, man. That love he spoke of was spiritual in the purest and most genuine way. And, like the Greek authors suggested of the Agape type of love, an enduring and unconditional one.  So really, I'm not sure how to define what that moment was about. But it sure seemed to be about more than something limited to brotherhood.


When I told my dad about this moment with Zachary it immediately made him cry. He gets to witness that sustained time between them so he knows it well. . .perhaps as well as anyone. 

Uncle Chief and Uncle Skeeter

But it also took him back to his boyhood times with his own siblings. He reflected to me about his late brother Edward (affectionately known as "Chief") and the close ties he always had with Dad's other brother, Hiawatha (known to all as "Skeeter.") And it's funny because when he told me about this, he wept in that same way Zachary did. In this tender, complex way stirred up from a love that is almost impossible to define.

"They were close like that. A different kind of close than the others. They always were. And both of them so different like Isaiah and Zachy. But close just like that," he said.  "They had this thing between them that was all their own."

And Dad spoke no words more true. My Uncle Skeeter, the extrovert with the fluffy jokes and the magnetic personality. And my Uncle Chief, the gentle, tenderhearted one--but who, like Isaiah, still knew a good joke when he heard one and who still had a good measure of mischief in him to make for some great memories.

The original "scouns"

 Dad calls it having some "scoun'" in you--short for "scoundrel." Every boy needs a little bit of scoun' in 'em, he says.


So yes, Dad cried when we spoke of that more-than-philos love shared between those brothers. And just now, I cried when writing this down because I just remembered something. My sweet Uncle Chief was born on May 6. And so was my Isaiah.


So yeah. Our time away was amazing. It was so, so good. But now I know that these escapes aren't only about us and perhaps, never have been. And this year, more than ever, with my children at separate schools and evolving into different sports and distinct interests, these times serve to cultivate a love so deep, so spiritual, that it caused my baby boy to crinkle his face and cry at the thought of it.

For those brothers, the Greeks say it's Philos. For Harry and me, they'd dub it the Eros type. And swirled through them all and looming down from the heavens, perhaps, that Agape type that runs deep like still waters. But to me? Philos, Eros or Agape--it doesn't matter. Because regardless of what you call it, it's all love.

And this? This is what I live for. This, this, this.


Happy Sunday.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . one of the most beautiful songs of more-than-Philos love ever written and performed.


  1. Damn. Powerful and so true. Happy New Year, indeed.

    Maria, fellow Meharrian

    1. Hey Maria! So happy to *see* you. Happy New Year!

      Kimberly, fellow Meharrian

  2. Just the most beautiful post. This is one that should be printed out and kept forever for your sons and for your parents and for you and your husband.

  3. This story about your boys did so touch my heart. Thanks for sharing this sweetness with us. Happy you and the BHE got some good adult play time. Happy New Year. x0 N2

  4. This broke me all the way down. As a mother of two young men (21 and 19), I often wondered did my boys really love-love each other; like, the true Philos kind, you know. They are so distinctly different from each other. I worked hard to give them individual lives since they are only 18 mos apart...separate set of friends, separate activities, etc. And you know, the more I tried to give them individuality, the closer they got. They LOVE each other so much and it warms my heart. You are so blessed to have such insightful children.

    1. Ms. Lisa, it's something 'bout them boys, ain't it? Sigh.

  5. I think "Down Time" is vastly underrated! Sure, we did a few fun things - visited friends and family, baked brownies, went to the movies - but mostly what we did was unorganized and uneventful. We actually stayed in our PJ's until 4:30 PM one day! I'm glad that Zachary enjoyed the time he spent with his brother. Isaiah did, too. And me? I enjoyed them both!

  6. Wow, my favorite part about vacation is coming home. Coming home to these little sweethearts, an honest to goodness great homecoming!

  7. Oh Kim, you're going to have to add a check box for a bunch of tears, those other three didn't work for me.
    This post is so beautiful, and joyful and so full of love. Your boys are so very sweet. I am so grateful Zachary shared what was in his heart with you so you could share it with us, even if it cost me a kleenex or two.
    I'm also glad you had a wonderful vacation and am envious of that Key Lime pie. Welcome back !

    1. Oh yes, ma'am! That Key Lime pie was the TRUTH. And that picture of you is gorgeous.

  8. Wonderful, every word. Thank you for sharing all of it. I'm happy for your beautiful family.

    1. Thank you, my friend. I am so glad you are here.

  9. From the deck of the Poop: This is absolutely beautiful and brought tears to my eyes as I read it. I had these two brothers (Chief and Skeeter) and have had the pleasure of having these two wonderful little grandsons of mine, spend a month plus with me for the past 5 years during the summer. As I listened to your story I immediately thought of Chief and Skeeter. I was Skeeter's little brother and he has always been very proud of me, taught me stuff as I grew up and were are still very close. But not like he and Chief. I knew that even when Chief passed on, I couldn't fill that void that he left in Skeeter's heart. Don't really understand why this two brothers next to each other happens but I know that it is real...

  10. Amazing -- I hope that love between them lasts forever.

  11. Laaawd! I'm so teary-eyed over here! That was BEAUTIFUL!!! I don't have that relationship with a sibling but reading about it is amazing! I hope my son gets that one day!

  12. Dang! Here I am, crying again! Lol What a beautiful relationship they have! I am taking a break from fb and am soooo missing Team S.J.G.R!!! Praying everyone is well!

    1. Good hearing from you, Julie. Everyone is doing great.

  13. Girl, you had me in tears through that. How beautiful. Reminds me so much of me and my sister. I love all of my family but she and I just "get" each other.

  14. Girl this doggone blog you have here, always makes my eyeballs sweat ! LOL I can so relate to this post & will definitely share with my beautiful sister, whom I love dearly. I have 2 nieces that I hope will continue to share the same type of bond. Thank you my dear for sharing this.


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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