My parents shared a selfless, sacrificial love and it filtered down to us.
Behind my blue-collar, weathered and aged facade lays a hopeless romantic. Yes, I cry at schmaltzy movies and tear up at sad stories. I’ve always been “all in” when Valentine’s Day rolls around.
Both of my wives — Loretta (who passed away years ago) and Marty (we are married 10 years) — always received the full treatment of candy, flowers, dinner, cake and so forth on Valentine’s Day. It has always been a special holiday for me.
I used the past tense because things are a bit different now. This year Marty’s Alzheimer’s disease has advanced to a different place. She asked me the other day if I was her father or her brother, and if there’s a bed she can sleep in.
The progression of her Alzheimer’s has me a bit down in the dumps this Valentine’s Day. Last year I gave her flowers. Ten minutes later, she asked me, “Where did those flowers come from?” This year, who knows where our momentary journey(s) will lead us.
As I was feeling sad about all this, I suddenly remembered an old Valentine keepsake I have. The memory came so “out of the blue” that it actually caused me to sit up straight in my office chair. It seemed, even, that God had showered some extra graces upon me. I had to find that Valentine.
I thought I knew where it was. I have an old, green, flip top metal filing box that was designed to hold 4×6 index cards. I went through the aged notes and papers in that box and it was not there. Two hours of searching later, I was about to quit. I paused and looked around. Where to next?
All of a sudden, St. Anthony, patron of lost items, was in my head. I wasted no time and gave him a “shout-out.” I swear to you, minutes later I was holding that old Valentine in my hand. It was where I began the search to begin with, in the old green box, wedged between two other cards. (How can you not love being Catholic?)
The Valentine was one my mom gave to my dad in 1955. It was homemade, crafted from an old piece of white construction paper. She used a red crayon to draw a heart on the front and colored around it. Then she wrote (in pencil) a poem on the other side, folded it in half, and voila, a card.
With the corny simplicity of this handmade card, my mom, at the age of 34, captured for all time the meaning of Valentine’s Day. The two of them had no idea that only six years later, she’d pass away.
The message was simply this: No matter what, I love you …
The poem reads:
You like stuffed cabbage; I like steak.
I get up early; you get up late.
Sometimes we’re noisy, sometimes we’re quiet,
Most times our home sounds like a riot.
The kids, I admit, do drive us crazy.
And with them around it’s hard to be lazy.
After eleven years of marriage
You’d think we’d be thru …
But please don’t think I’m corny—
Because this is true:
Believe it or not,
I STILL LOVE YOU
At the time, the kids she mentioned numbered four — ages 10, 8, 5 and 10 months. We lived in a 4-room apartment in the South Bronx. None of us ever thought we were missing a thing.
My parents shared a selfless, sacrificial love and it filtered down to us. Therein is the message and purpose of Valentine’s Day.
Final thought: Once again I am looking forward to February 14. Marty will receive flowers, candy and a card. It does not matter if she understands why. I do.