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The Most Valuable Player (MVP)

Yesterday was my birthday; I am 37 now, and I insist on counting backwards.

I planned my blog for today. I thought maybe I would do one of those cheesy ones, like "37 things I've learned in 37 years" or "Things I wish I knew in my 20s," etc.

Well, not today. Today I want to talk about my MVP (Most Valuable Player)...

This picture was taken in June 2009; we were at the rented Airbnb in Durban with a group of friends. It was also the night the Airbnb owner pulled me aside in the hallway and told me: "That boy is really in love with you."

She was of Indian descent, and because of the way she said it, it felt like it was meant to "inform, affirm, or reassure." In some strange way, it did all of that.

Since it was my hometown, I decided to take a day and go hang out with my family. I left Eirik with the friend group he was traveling with. The host told me that Eirik had spent most of the day looking outside for the sign of my return. Of course, he tried to keep a low profile, but she had noticed him going in and out of the house to check.

She said that when dinner was served and everyone gathered around the table and was ready to eat, Eirik refused to eat; he wanted to wait until I got there.

"I had been waiting for you before I could serve dinner, but the others couldn’t wait any longer, so they decided to go ahead and eat. Eirik decided he would rather wait for you. So instead, he excused himself from the table and went outside to wait for you on the driveway until you got home," she said.

I told her I appreciated that she told me but to me that act alone didn't mean love. The woman was much older, and I thought old people loved the idea of love and romance, and maybe even the fact that we were young and an interracial couple. Perhaps, in this new South Africa, she was looking at this glimmer of hope for a more diverse South Africa—anything was a conceivable explanation for me to rationalize what she was telling me.

Maybe I wanted the love expression to appear much bigger than someone who was choosing to starve themselves. I looked at that explanation quite literally, missing the act of love in the sacrifice Eirik was making, the purity in wanting to wait so we could share a meal together as young lovers, holding hands.

Eirik and I had been texting back and forth; he never mentioned dinner being served or that he was waiting for me. He only inquired if I was okay and if I planned to be back that same day. I don’t see the need to rush.

About 40 minutes later, my cousin dropped me off. Eirik had still been waiting for me outside. I am not sure how long he had been there. Always with a smile on his face, he helped me get out of the car, and we went inside and joined everyone for dinner. That is when the picture was taken.

Yesterday was my birthday, and since I had dinner plans with my close friends, I was to spend most of my day alone, preparing for my birthday.

I asked him what his plan was, and he said: "Today, I didn’t make that many plans. I have lunch with my cousin, and then I set my whole day aside to spend time with you. I won’t leave you alone on your birthday, so I will stay with you until your friends start showing up."

He did just that. I decorated, I ran some errands, and he stayed on FaceTime with me for 6h:54 seconds total. Yes, I checked.

It was I who left the conversation, which almost never happens. I needed a nap; I had two hours left before the party started. Eirik was awake, in Norway, past midnight.

Laying in bed with his squinty tired eyes, he completely abandoned his own need for rest, and earlier that day for skiing, or reading a book to spare me from experiencing any potential negative feelings - from being alone on my birthday and later, as I would find out, holding on to the more complex conversation to discuss as to not ruin my day.

I know people experience us differently; I cannot speak on anyone's experience. For me, Eirik is my most valuable player. I think those who truly know him would agree. I’ve always experienced this man like this, and I continue to experience him this way.

When our host told me of Eirik’s love for me, I already knew he loved me. Not for his denial in partaking in a great meal that was set out for him. Even though this made me pay more attention. I had known for a while because of how he treated me.

I may have met Eirik the Casanova and playboy as many did, but I never experienced him this way. From the first day we met, I was the only girl he wanted to spend time with, every single day.

I experienced Eirik, a 28-year-old young man - as he would be at 43 and will also be at 98 years old. A very generous man. This is the man who abandoned his ways to honor what we had even before I knew about his prior exploits. With his actions, he showed me kindness, love, admiration, and respect for me so undeniable even strangers could see it.

I don’t think either of us understood what love was back then... but here is what I know now, the truest form of love lies in the consistency of our actions. This is the compelling evidence of how we truly feel about someone else - that even though feelings can be faked or even projected, authentic love is the only love that shatters all counterfeit love... those actions that come with that love are involuntary. Love, whether we know or understand it - is a strong enough force to lead us into the place of self-giving. Love is the force that propels us to selfless actions.

This is Eirik, and this is the way he loves and the way he shows up for those he loves. Even when he frowns, he always has an open heart for his friends and family. Eirik has the ability to see people, not just with his eyes, but he sees them with his heart.

He is the most valuable player to me, and I hope to those who truly know him, because nothing makes us feel safer than being truly seen, accepted, and nothing makes us feel loved than when someone who shows up for us consistently, in small and big ways.

This man has a love that is consistent, and even to those who do not deserve it, he still cares and is forgiving, hopeful, and patient.

"There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." (John 15:13).

Almost 15 years since I met him, the more things change, the more they stay the same.


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