"When I was a young probation officer in my thirties, a young client who'd formed an attachment to a woman he dearly fancied, asked me out of the blue, "How... when do you know you're in love, Mr. Forde?" What chance had I of providing him with an accurate and definitive answer? After all, I'd only been alive mere thirty odd years and though I believed that I held the answer to most of life's unfathomable questions, little did I know then that my learning had not yet progressed beyond First School level when it came to constructs of the heart.
Having been in love many times since my teens, it was even hard to recall a time when I wasn't in love! Whenever my mother witnessed me dressing myself up for a night out at a local dance hall as a teenager, she would jokingly remark, 'The only person you love, Billy Forde, is yourself. You think you're the bee's knees!' She'd then tell me some cock and bull story about her attending a dance in Portlaw, Waterford as a teenager and commanding the attention of every boy and the envy of every girl there as soon as she arrived because of her stunning looks. She was a bigger story teller than I'd ever become!
It was only after my first marriage ended in divorce I realised that where 'love stakes' were concerned, I knew no more than the next hopeful looking for lasting romance and probably not as much. By that time in my life, I'd come to learn that however good relationships began, with the few exceptions of those lucky couples who find love in each other's arms at the age of eighteen and still hold the same degree of affection for each other at the age of eighty, that most relationships are time limited and invariably reach their 'sell by date' before all shelf life has passed. My advice now to that young man today would certainly be, 'When you find the one who changes the way your heart beats, dance with them to that rhythm for as long as the song lasts.'
While I would not profess to be any more of an expert today upon the question of love between couples, my many bumps and mistakes along the way have provided me with a few insights I might not otherwise have glimpsed.The most important thing I have learned is that finding love is like looking for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; it is most unlikely to happen and will probably result in disappointment. I learned in my sixties that when you are not in search of love, it is more likely to come your way; so keep your eyes peeled and your gun powder dry.
If I could return to the young man who asked my advice many years ago when I was a young probation officer, I would definitely answer him differently today. I'd ask him, 'When you whisper in her ear, do you sense the solitude of her soul that existed before you came along? When you listen to the beat of her heart, do you hear the beat of your own in loving echo? When you are together, can you move to the edge of reason and the full force of passion, and make time stand still? Is yours a love that will allow the physical attraction of each other at the start of your relationship to move to a more spiritual union as the years go by? If your answer is 'yes' then you are in love!'
When I met Sheila, I was aged 66 years and had two broken marriages behind me. I knew very early on into our relationship that at the centre of my very being, an infinite well of love had appeared. The first time we kissed, I could taste the next thirty years of my life. In many ways, falling for Sheila wasn't like falling at all. It was like walking into a house for the first time and knowing you are home. To date, I have never known a period of time when I was happier. Shelia taught me that love makes one become their best self with no need to try and change them. What can I say except that I love Sheila more than I have found a way to say." William Forde: September 14th, 2017.