Once there was a man, a child, born into a nice family, with nice people who, like people in many nice families, didn't always behave nicely. But things were pretty good until the young man's father died. All his mother would say was, "He was sick."
The man, being then as now a romantic to the core, decided that he would be the "man of the family" and although he was only 7, he set out to do this. But the other members of the family weren't so sure about having a little boy (as they called him, not unfairly) run the show. So they made fun of him, not un-nicely, and ignored him when he tried to run things. This made him mad, especially when he could see that he was right and they were wrong.
The mother, who was pretty as well as well-off, found herself wanting to get away from the confines of her home in the country-side and moved the family to the big city, where her head was turned by many suitors, but none so much as the young Italian man who looked at her as if she was the moon, sun and stars, and talked wildly of Art, and Passion, and Love. They were married, and the young man, who very much liked his new "father", sang at their wedding.
Alas, the Grand Love of the Mother and new Father burnt brightly but short and in only a few years, the young man's family was once again broken. The parents fought and made up, over and again for many years, until eventually they became great friends. The not-so-young man was grateful for this, as he loved them both, even as he thought them completely insane.
The not-so-young man grew into a man, and found Love for himself. Interestingly, his Love came with two children, both teens. And the man felt his love grow to encompass the two young men, as well as a grandchild that he and his Love adopted as their own, and eventually another adopted child. And through all the trials and tribulations of raising a family, he read a singular book to the children, younger and older alike. To his first adopted daughter, he would say, "I love you forever, I'll like you for always, As long as I'm living my baby you'll be." And then he would say, "No matter what. Period. End of story." And she would hug him and then do the most annoying things a child or a young girl could possibly do.
Now, sometimes the man wasn't nice, but mostly he was, and he would always tell her and himself, "I'll love you forever..." even when the words stuck in his craw after some particularly egregious behavior. Because he was and is a romantic to the bone, and he wanted his daughter to be able to boast that HER dad loved her in spite of her behavior. Which he did and so did she.
So, the man read the story to all his children, and promised them to love them forever. And he did, even when the oldest boy was sent to jail, even when his heart felt torn between wanting to hug the children or beat them, even when the eldest daughter said unspeakable things and wreaked havoc on the family. Eventually things got better, and wounds healed and the father and the daughter and the son and the Parents all were very happy and nice and sometimes thoughtful and sometimes crazy but things were better for a year.
One freaking year. If you'll excuse the plagiarism, 525,600 minutes, more or less, maybe 16 months total. And on New Year's Eve, the man and his Love got the phone call no parent ever wants to hear. And they buried the older son, and the Love's light dimmed, like a sun behind a cloud. And the man tried to understand and be a loving father and partner and care for the rest of the family, in particular the eldest daughter who was the child of the oldest son, who he and his Love had adopted, who had wanted to reconcile with her biological father, but hadn't quite. And after two years, his Love's light began to brighten once more and he basked again in the warmth.
As his Love's light shone again, his relationships with his surviving children did too. His son, eldest daughter and younger daughter all loved and cared for each other, and help each other through more trials, but few tribulations. And the eldest daughter found a deep love and the son adopted a half-brother of the eldest daughter (are you keeping track? There will be a quiz soon) and the man and his Love were very happy. And the Parents were there for some birthdays, and sent cards for others and in general all was good.
As the eldest daughter's partner was graduating, a party was held and the daughter and her partner went to the party and beautiful pictures were taken and sent and the man saw his daughter's picture from 5 minutes before the party, and the daughter promised to call when it was over. But many drinks were had, too many, and harsh words were exchanged and feelings were hurt, and eventually eldest daughter was tucked back into her bed by friends of the partner.
But the hurt had struck the eldest daughter deep, and she feared losing her beloved partner, and so she found her car and drove to find her partner and she lost control and the man and his wife were woken at 3 AM by the sheriff's deputy and the nightmare began again.
And this time the man understood deep in his bones what he had not understood before: that the loss of a child who you have nurtured is like tearing the skin from your heart.
And at the memorial, he said to his daughter, "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be." And he wept.
And the Parents saw the man's anguish and came to his side and tried to comfort him and generally acted better than they ever had, and the man found comfort in his deeper relationships with the Parents. And some wounds were healed and fences mended and the Parents and the man and his Love and their son and daughter pressed on, though more trials and tribulations lay ahead.
And even when the Parents died and more family, and things were just the shits, the man and his Love said to their children (and to each other), "I'll love you forever..." even though sometimes they couldn't say the words aloud.
And the story ends (or doesn't, really) here. But when my Love or my children read this, they will know:
"I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, As long as I'm living, my babies you'll be."
Because I"m still the romantic who said, when he was just seven years old, "I'll take care of you. Don't worry." And I still mean it.