The best romance stories are played out in real life

By Cindy Beamon

The Daily Advance

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The Daily Advance's "Best Valentine Story" contest has me thinking.

I've been married 30-plus years, so tales of giddy, heart-throbbing romance do not instantly leap to mind. I'm not especially sentimental anyway.

I still enjoy a good love story though.

Who can resist the hot passion of forbidden love in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet? I've viewed several versions of the tale about two teenagers who risk all for love despite objections by their feuding families.

The American film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, set in the 1960s, was a fun retelling. The modernized version switched swords for guns, family feuds for mafia gangs - but kept the Shakepearean verse - in an unusual mix of the old and the new.

The famous balcony scene reminds me of another classic, Cyrano de Bergerac, the late 19th Century play about a romantic swordsman/poet with a big nose. He falls in love with Roxanne but cannot imagine she would love him. Instead, he pens love letters that handsome, but plain-spoken Christian uses to woo Roxanne.

I love the scene when Cyrano pours out his heart to Roxanne in the dark on Christian's behalf after Christian fails in his awkward declarations of love. The under-the-breath arguments between Cyrano and Christian to an oblivious Roxanne in the balcony above adds humor to the otherwise tragic story.

There's also Penelope in the Odyssey who resists over 100 suitors because she's still waiting after 20 years for her beloved to return from war.

And there's the spirited Elizabeth Bennett, who realizes almost too late that she's misjudged Mr. Darcy in Jane Austin's novel Pride and Prejudice. The tension of restrained love builds as Elizabeth weaves her way through 19th Century etiquette to find true love.

At first glance, everyday, simple acts of love may pale in comparison to all that drama.

Then I remember the love my father expressed to my mother just before he died. He was bedridden with cancer but his thoughts were consumed at trying to ensure that she would be OK after he was gone.

I saw the same love in my father-in-law, who was in his mid-80s, when he would take his nearly blind wife to see their granddaughters' basketball games. I don't think it ever occurred to him to leave her home.

Each year on her birthday, he would give her a flowery card proclaiming his love, and she would cry.

In my own life, I often take the small acts of love for granted. A kiss in the morning, every morning, on his way out to work. The coffee waiting for me to pour when I awake. All the times he changes the oil in my car or fixes a broken earring.

I expect other people will also recall stories to tell if they think about it. I'm looking forward to reading the happy thoughts the "Best Valentine Contest" will inspire.