Mr. Hearts and Flowers – boy, was that guy smooth. I was reminded of just how cool he was as I opened my Valentine storage box last week. Stuffed with silly stuffed animals and sparkly ‘I Love You’s”, the box was chock full of never-again memories. Last year was the first Valentine’s Day without my funny, sweet husband. I’m sure it comes as no surprise that even the idea of popping the lid to that box was more than I could handle.
This year I thought maybe the house could use some Valentine décor. Why you ask? I have no idea. I don’t feel one bit romantic, and I’m not wired for a Valentine’s Day pity party so being a touch masochistic is the only reason I can think of. Why else would I decorate for a holiday that’s clearly missing the one person who gave it true meaning for me? The grandkids – of course! Hey, who loves freaky but super cute stuffed monkeys, bobbleheads and a candy-heart carrying Minnie Mouse more?
Imagine opening your cabinets, microwave and even the fridge to find beribboned roses, foil wrapped chocolates and jewelry. Yup, that husband of mine was THAT guy. On the last Valentine’s Day we’d ever share together, I woke to find heart shaped lollipops and colorful notes on every step leading upstairs. I snapped a few photos of the over-the-top sweetness that morning. As I fished them out a few months ago, reminiscing with some friends about how my husband always nailed it, I realized something else. Those stairs, where the grinning polka dot elephant sat, were exactly where I found him eight months after that last Valentine Day.
Maybe it was a good thing we had no warning that Hallmark day would be our last because we celebrated each other exactly like the silly aging kids we were. That day we weren’t waiting tensely for medical results. We weren’t worried about the other cancer shoe falling. We were just two people celebrating love. Oh sure, had we had known there would be no more February 14ths to share ever again, we might have savored more, treasured more, took the loving, peaceful moments less for granted. Given how illness colored our entire married life, however, I suspect we took little for granted so maybe we wouldn’t have done anything different at all.
Before Mr. Romance came along, there were years Valentine’s Day was a non-event. A few ‘Single Awareness Days’ but most often, when love was less than great, it was a matter of going through the motions. That girl was never the real me; just someone who adapted to ‘it is what it is’. My authentic self made heart cookies and pink-iced cakes for the first and always valentines in my life – my kids. Now I line up red goodie bags of V-day treats for the grands. Thanks to my one true Valentine, I’ve come full circle. Hello, me.
And maybe that’s it after all. The kooky romantic guy gave me back the girl I was meant to be, and allowed me to feel like a Valentine again, not just the giver of them. All the stuff in that storage box are reminders of how fully I was loved. His sentimental heart bestowed the grace of what it really means to be someone’s forever Valentine, the most priceless gift of all.
I’d like to think that in giving him my heart, I gifted him with something as well. With me, he understood that happiness is in the small things; the things that are Technicolor proof of care and thought. He learned that I didn’t need diamonds to feel like the Queen of them and that thoughts from the heart are the only things remembered after glittery wrappings are gone. I will ever forget his man gifts of blingy diamond heart earrings or twinkling bracelets but those absurd little Valentine chatchkas? Those little suckers will live in memory.
They say the devil is in the details; I suspect angels are, too. It’s not surprising that I cried as I picked up each little Valentine’s Day remembrance of the man who said ‘I love you, kiddo’. And I’m quite sure they will bring more. But one thing I know. Those tears will be those of someone who was exquisitely loved and that’s something. In fact —it’s everything.
“My funny Valentine. Sweet, comic Valentine,
You (still) make me smile with my heart”
How do you feel about Valentine’s Day? Is it a mixed feeling holiday?