I remember that feeling sitting in class, going through each Valentine and wondering if there was a deeper meaning to ‘Bee My Valentine’ with the picture of a bumblebee flitting around on that breakaway card that came in a pack of 24.
Because that is what some of us girls do. We look for the deeper meaning and hold the Valentine against our chest convinced the bumblebee was a symbol for something that was a symbol for something that was a symbol for something that clearly meant the boy who scribbled his name on the bottom loved us more than anything and we’d get married and have babies and live happily ever after.
I did this.
I still do this.
And I’m married and I have kids and I will continue to live happily ever after. Even if every day I want the ‘I love you’ and I want to hold the Valentine against my chest and dream.
I watched my daughter go through each and every Valentine from her bag last night. My son tossed his on the ottoman and only dug inside to find a piece of candy. And I realized some things just don’t change.
At one point my daughter came over to me and said “Mom, no one got you a Valentine…we didn’t get one for you.” And upon hearing those words my son immediately stopped his game (so you KNOW it’s a big deal) and rubbed his hand up and down my arm, consoling me. Truly worried and upset I had no Valentine.
It’s ok Mom, you can have one of mine.
And I explained, again, their father and I have our own tradition. And that just as he had to sign each of his Valentine’s for his classmates, someone signed that Valentine for him, and it wouldn’t be right to give it away. Even if it was very sweet.
Sweet matters. Traditions matter. That time taken to scribble that name on the bottom of the card matters. But I have learned it matters more daily, not just on the ONE day. It matters in the morning when walking out the door. It matters at night when going to bed. It matters when scared and instinctively fingers intertwine.
Today, the day after Valentine’s Day, I sat in the waiting room of my doctor’s office feeling miserable emotionally. I wanted to be clutching that Valentine to my chest and making juvenile wishes. I wanted a hand on mine to calm down my beating heart.
Instead I was sent an elderly man who didn’t think twice about walking right up to me and asking about my scarf.
Did you make that?
And he actually poked it with his cane.
Just reached on over and poked the scarf hanging around my neck with his cane! Then he used the cane to lift the bottom of the scarf up and examine the stitching.
In my head the first thing I thought was…oh please, not now. I don’t have the energy.
I explained I did not, in fact, knit the scarf but I wish I had the talent. And I smiled politely hoping that would end the conversation.
But he kept going. And going. And going.
His wife wandered out a few minutes later, I’m not sure how many, glanced at him talking to me and seemed to survey the situation…was he bothering me too much? Was he talking too much? Should she intervene? I gave her a polite smile letting her know it was alright, we were fine. She seemed to decide I had it under control and went back to writing a check at the front desk.
Over the course of the next 10-15 minutes I learned my new friend was 87-years old and his wife of 62 years (!!!!!!) was a young 85. I learned about his time in a ‘trio’ where he played guitar for a ‘blonde bombshell’ and traveled. But he always came back to his wife.
He gushed over her like they were newlyweds. Gushed.
Then his wife came over and motioned for me to move my purse. She too used her cane. Of course I couldn’t help but think of my own cane, sitting unused in my car. Thankful it’s unused right now….I obliged and picked up my bag and moved it to the ground so she could take the seat next to me.
As she took the seat her husband immediately told her I did not, in fact, make the scarf I was wearing and that I was, originally from Detroit and that my husband and I had Italian food for Valentine’s Day.
But why was I there? In the doctor’s office?
I didn’t want to tell them.
For some reason it just didn’t feel right to tell them I was there because I’m always there. Because this is my life.
I told them I was having stitches removed. And it was as if the wife knew I was lying to her.
She patted my thigh and said ‘we all have our crosses to bear, don’t we dear?’
And I cried.
Right there in the doctor’s waiting room I cried with two strangers.
Luckily I held it together and it wasn’t an ugly cry. And wise beyond their years this couple just kept talking, as if my tears were as normal as the conversation they had decided to just carry on with a woman they didn’t know in the middle of a doctor’s waiting room.
They made me laugh.
Every time the husband would compliment or gush over his wife, she would roll her eyes and say something like ‘oh, he’s just making up for all the trouble he causes’ and playfully smacked him with her cane. It was a good smack too. You could tell she had done it a million times before.
Then, as if reality emerged loudly with the opening of a door and the BOOMING nurse’s voice ERIN VEST… ERIN VEST…the door opened, they called my name, and the couple stood up with me. The 85-year old woman handed me my purse, when I should have been helping her with her cane. As they headed to the door the husband said ‘Now you know that she is all that matters…’
I was thankful to have met them today. 62-years of marriage and they were playful and loving and clearly taking care of one another. They gave me such hope.
They reminded me of why we hold that Valentine to our chest and let our heart beat fast and why we dare to dream.
I also now know what to do with that cane of mine…currently and thankfully collecting dust in the back of my car. I will just save it for years from now, because apparently it will come in very, very handy later on when I can’t lean over as quickly or reach as far to give my husband a swift tap when needed.