The quest for love begins in the heart |

The quest for love begins in the heart

Open Space
Derek Franz
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

For a long time, as I grew up, love stories only existed in stories. As a single child of divorced parents who lived 300 miles apart, it was hard to imagine a healthy, loving relationship between two people who wanted to grow old with each other. Sometimes it is still hard for me to imagine that someone would love me so much.

My hopeless perception started to change when my dad married my stepmom, and it was reaffirmed when my mom married my stepdad.

My memory of it is so detached, it’s like thinking of another person.

The 13-year-old didn’t know why he felt angry, but he did. He sat and stewed in the car, thinking what he would say when his dad returned. He knew it was ridiculous to whine about it, now that the car was loaded for a week-long backpack trip to the Grand Canyon, but the situation suddenly felt wrong, even disturbing. He was angry that Dad would invite some strange woman along for what had been planned months in advance as a father-son trip.

The boy knew he didn’t have much of a right to be angry. His dad had asked his permission weeks before. He had even gotten to know the lady. She was pretty, with blond hair, was nice and smart, and smiled and laughed a lot, but suddenly the kid felt there was an intruder. Perhaps he didn’t even know what he was feeling – only that the whole plan seemed strange and dangerous.

He kicked the dashboard when his father returned to the driver’s seat and put the key in the ignition. There was a brief outburst of yelling and tears.

“Well, it’s too late now, she’s packed and waiting for us to pick her up,” said his father.

The kid sulked a little, but kept quiet about his frustration when they picked Claire up. He liked Claire and knew his feelings weren’t toward her personally.

The three of them toured the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for five days and 40 miles. When they came out, they were a lot like a family.

Two years and many more backpack trips later, Claire married the boy’s dad at a small ski area near Leadville. The 15-year-old was in the wedding, but he almost didn’t make it there in time.

The boy had to leave his classes at Rifle High School early to catch a Greyhound bus. But the bus left before it was scheduled to that day – a normal type of occurrence with Greyhound, at least in those days.

Mom came to the rescue. She picked him up at school to drive him to the next bus stop in Glenwood Springs. But her car was running out of gas – the “empty” light was on.

“Ahh! You’re dad is never going to forgive me!” she screamed in the panic.

But the boy made it onto the bus, and stood by his father’s side at the wedding.

Today – Valentine’s Day – will mark my dad and Claire’s 13th anniversary. I’m now 28 years old and feel incredibly lucky that Claire entered my life.

I was an only child, and now I have siblings – a stepsister and stepbrother, and the latter has a baby on the way. Watching my dad’s relationship grow with such a smart woman (she is a multilingual guidance counselor at Boulder High School), I learned a lot about what marital love could be and is supposed to be. Plus, I’ve got a second mom to care about me.

Growing up primarily with my mom, I’ve learned some things from her, too. I saw firsthand how difficult the dating world can be, and it was with great happiness that I gave her away at her wedding by the Roaring Fork River last summer.

It seems I’ve found a good love of my own as well. I’m living with a smart, athletic woman who laughs a lot and sometimes treats me better than I deserve.

Maybe the only thing I can say for sure that I’ve learned about love is that it’s never as hopelessly far away as it can seem. You never know who you might meet or where a day might take you.

I think, for discovering love, a lot of it has to do with the relationship a person has with himself, for that is where the journey begins. I didn’t find love until I believed in it.

Derek’s column appears every other Monday. He wishes everyone a happy Valentine’s Day and can be reached at

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