It’s Valentine’s Day. Love is in the air. Even my cat is anxious for a boyfriend, and driving me crazy. Roses are being delivered to homes, places of work, schools, and hospitals. Candy is being consumed by the boxes. Adults who outgrew stuffed animals years ago are suddenly swooning over the large bear that was plucked off of Wal-Marts shelf last night. Restaurants will be packed tonight.
Valentine’s Day has always been one of my least favorite holidays. There is so much pressure on the man to make it perfect. Women, we kind-of get a pass. I always wondered, why do we need some commercially created holiday to tell those around us that we love each other? We should show and tell our loved ones every single day that we love them. However, many times our gestures go unnoticed because they aren’t elaborate enough to be considered a gift. Yet, this doesn’t make them anymore important.
On Valentine’s Day, twelve years ago, my life was forever changed. A little back story though. My dad had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, yet his behaviors were changing drastically. Three days prior to Valentine’s Day he was taken to the emergency room for a possible stroke. Imaging showed he had a massive brain tumor. It was never Alzheimer’s, which was diagnosed without ANY imaging being done. This massive brain tumor, we would later see, encompassed half of his brain.
On Valentine’s Day he was scheduled for a very lengthy surgery. Eight hours long. We sat in the waiting room and tried to entertain ourselves, but worry encompassed us all. My faith wasn’t what it should have been. I hadn’t been to church regularly in a while. I prayed, some, but I wasn’t sure I was being heard. When the doctor finally emerged to speak with us, the news was grim. My dad, my hero, had Stage IV Glialblastoma Multiforme. Those bone chilling words made it certain I would never celebrate Valentine’s Day again. There’s nothing like being told a loved one had mere months to live to put a damper on your holiday.
I have pseudo-celebrated the holiday since. As a public school teacher, we would have parties. As a parent, I give my children gift bags. My husband has strict orders to not even tell me Happy Valentine’s Day. Instead, he and I celebrate the day that we started dating. That day has meaning to us. More meaning than some commercial holiday.
As much as I despise Valentine’s Day, and the memory that it makes me have of my dad, I am reminded of another Valentine’s Day with him. My dad was not a mushy kind of guy. Big romantic gestures were not his thing. He was a former Marine. I knew this, and being a teenager, I also knew that my mom would appreciate the gestures that I saw on television. I convinced my dad to buy my mom roses, and we drove the 45 minutes to her work. We put them in the front seat of her car so she would see them when she left work that night. Then, we drove the 45 minutes home. He spent an hour and a half in a car, for a two second delivery of flowers and no chance of actually seeing his wife. He did this because he loved her.
Love should be our motive in everything that we do. Not just on Valentine’s Day, but always. As much as my mom enjoyed those roses, I am sure she would have appreciated the gesture even more on a different day, or on more than one occasion. Yet, she knew my dad loved her. He showed her everyday by the way he brought her a cup of coffee. The way he built our house with his own two hands. In the way that he would go out in the freezing cold to bring wood in for the stove.
My husband is just like my dad. He shows me everyday he loves me. When my anxiety is running rampant he calms me. When we watch TV and I fall asleep on his shoulder he doesn’t move, no matter how uncomfortable his arm gets. If I have heartburn in the middle of the night, he bring me a glass of milk. When I am sick, he fixes me chicken noodle soup with pepper in a coffee cup with a fork, just like my dad used to do. I don’t need Valentine’s Day to know that I am loved. I know it the other 364 days of the year as well. That, my friends, is the goal.