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Louis Roney

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Lots of people who are real hotshots when it comes to amore may know no more than we amateurs know about the patron saint of lovers. But few people would send a card saying, "Be my martyr." After all, the guy behind all the "to-do" every Feb. 14 was a third-century Christian martyr, a Roman citizen named Valentine.

Valentine was done in for his unpopular beliefs in A.D. 269, and was later canonized. The day that we call Saint Valentine's Day seems hardly an appropriate remembrance for a religious martyr. Pagan deities Eros and Amor were classical Greek and Roman symbols of romantic love. The bridge to the Christian St. Valentine is tenuous. The body-mind-soul trinity that constitutes the boy-girl relationship called "true love" should be more than the love hyped by Cupid.

To love, honor and cherish (obey?) are all too often promised without reflection upon their profound implications. Societal experience shows that all three of these verbs must be put to daily use, lest a marriage lead to unhappiness, even dissolution.

Speaking from a man's point of view, I would endorse the statement, "A man doesn't really really know a woman until he is married to her." And no happily married man needs to know any other woman the way he knows his wife.

There have been women relatives whom I loved dutifully as long as I could hold out. Through the years I said to myself, "Thank God I'm not married to such as her." There's ample evidence that their husbands may have shared my assessment.

Those men who stuck it out to the bitter end may have been modern-day St. Valentines.

In the song "They Can't Take That Away From Me," Fred Astaire sang glibly and charmingly of "the rocky road to love." After living more than four score years, I don't think it's the road to love that's so rocky. It's after you've reached where the road has led you that the rocks hit the fan.

Once in love, you don't make good sense anymore — if you ever did in the first place.

If you're worried about giving yourself to someone else, first make sure you're a gift worth having. You may radiate agape love toward all humanity. But you're kidding yourself if you think you'll settle for nothing in return from the one person with whom you're in love. If you take exception to the above, you may put "Saint" before your name. Or you may be thinking of another name for yourself. Is it "sucker"?

Having to listen to someone's reporting the happy intimate details of his love life can test the sturdiest friendship.

Shakespeare knew that it's easier to sustain interest in tragedy than in comedy. This is why Pollyannaish stories screech to a halt with, "They lived happily ever after." Someone else's happiness may be the gospel truth, but please don't bore us with it.

But spare us your ecstatic details of how boffo it was in Niagara Falls with what's-her-name in a room-with-a-view.

Many of us are glued to the TV news every night. When is it good news?

I have a few forgettable downers in my own limited past experience with females. I might admit I'm not 100 percent convinced that men and women are ordained as logical sharers of the same living quarters. Let me add a personal credo: "If two people don't love each other, no mansion is big enough. If they love each other, no apartment is too small."

For many years I sang operas based on love stories. My roles got me involved in affairs with all kinds of women, from Mimi to Aida, Juliet to Carmen. Lots of highly dramatic stuff happened while I romanced these fictional dames. But an opera's ending was hardly ever happy. Would it help Bizet's opera if Carmen and Don Jose patched things up and rode off into a rosy enchilada? Would you like it if Mimi coughed on and on after the curtain without benefit of Medicare or an HMO, and Rodolfo had to go out and get a real job instead of cranking out his lousy poetry? Tragedy works.

Except in real life, that is.

Surely you could have a worse existence than a lifelong happy love affair. But don't write a book about it. No one will read it.

There's no way to be sure about the ends of adventures. There's no insurance policy on high Cs.

And there's no predicting the outcome of the boy-girl thing that involves 24 hours a day and thousands of dawns and sunsets. Somebody said, "I'd rather be lucky than smart." You can get smarter. But how do you get luckier?

Vince Lombardi said, "You make your own luck." Oversimplified, maybe, but essentially true. We can produce a climate in which good things are likely to happen to us. Giving without expecting anything in return seems to help create this positive climate. Second effort does too.

But even these goodies guarantee nothing. Opening the Bible removes us from the street-talk of "Guys and Dolls." We learn the Biblical word "grace."

It ain't "Luck be a lady tonight."

It's "Grace be a lady tonight!"

A happy ending in life is not part of the bargain. It depends on something you cannot hope to deserve. Happiness is an inexplicable gift. It's luck. It's grace! It's great!

I heard a lovely blond girl sing a recital 31 years ago in New York. I never met anyone quite like her in all my travels. Her name is Joy, and she is my joy.

She has the sweetest nature I've ever known in any human being. She is talented. She is smart. She is enthusiastic. She is energetic. She is affectionate. She is educated. She is romantic. She is adventurous. She is forgiving. She is practical. She is funny. She is the friend I can count on. She's quite a woman, quite a lady, quite a wife.

This month we've been married 30 years. Do I deserve her?

Of course not.

Friend, do you want me to get what I deserve? She's the Joy of my life. She's my Valentine every day of the year.

Amazing grace!