When we are in love on Valentine’s Day, then all is right with the world. I have had some incredible Valentine’s Days. There were many cards and flowers and, they were always left on the table so when I woke up and went into the kitchen for coffee, I would see them first thing. These were left out the night before because Randy Polk was not an early riser. He had enough of that in the Air Force. From the first celebration in 1984 (we started dating in March of 1983) until the last in 2013 he usually did something extremely creative for me. I often got him a card. One year he recreated the movie Serendipity giving me all the gifts that John Cusack gave Kate Beckinsale in the film while watching the film. One year he went to a photo booth and took about a hundred pictures of himself mouthing the words I love you so he could make me a FLIPBOOK. There was the year he made me a playlist of love songs and the year he sang only to me “What a Wonderful World” in front of about 100 people. I was very embarrassed by the attention. I can see his sheepish grin as he sang that song to me and now it makes me smile back. It has become a significant memory that I am frequently bombarded with every time I hear that song. No matter what lengths he went to on a particular Valentine’s Day, I always felt loved. No matter what day of the year it was I always felt loved.
When Valentine’s Day came in 2014 the first one without him, I was a complete wreck. I told myself it was no different than any other day that it, in fact, was just a day that Hallmark made up in their marketing department. This self-talk did no good as I thought of all the past Valentine’s Days we celebrated and all the future Valentine’s Days we would not have together. That first Valentine’s Day a friend had me over for dinner. Someone sent me flowers that day anonymously, and the card said you are loved. That was true, but I was also lost and heartbroken and at the height of my grief about four months after he died. The shock was wearing off although at this point I still woke up every morning to the new realization that he was gone. I was taking sleeping pills to force myself to sleep and still having a reoccurring dream that he was still alive and I had time to save him only to wake up and realize it was a dream.
I was not happy for the couples that got to celebrate but only felt cheated and angry that I was not one of them. I was still crying everyday sometimes for hours and this day would be worse than usual. I couldn’t entirely take deep breaths. I wish I knew how, but somehow I survived that Valentine’s Day and the four since then. The irony is now as I write this I cannot remember the 2015 Valentines Day. That is good. Proof it got better. It also makes me want to remind everyone that life can be too short and always unpredictable. Don’t take your loved ones for granted. I don’t mean you shouldn’t forget to buy chocolate this week for each other I mean don’t have regrets about how you treated each other. As a mediator, I am always surprised at the disregard people have for each other, especially when they need to be right. Right is the goal, but should not be at the expense of the relationship. In my opinion, love does mean having to say you are sorry.
This week a good man died way too young and the pain that I know his wife of thirty plus years has had and will have is excruciating. She is still in shock, but I envy that shock knowing it will wear off and reality is worse. I cannot stop thinking about how awful her Valentines Day will be. I want to tell her that somehow minute-by-minute she will be okay, and eventually, her kids and grandkids and the love she has for them will be enough of a reason to get up in the morning. Her friends and community will care for her, and she won’t be able to believe the empathy and kindness that still exists. I want to tell her to hold on to her faith and it won’t look the same but will sustain her. I want to say to her that she will never be the same, but the next her might be good too. I want to tell her these things, but I know she can’t process this or believe it yet. So instead I wrote this in hopes one day she will be ready.
Although, I am now kind of cynical about all holidays and traditions because of what happens when things change as they always do. Valentine’s Day is no longer sad for me. I will wake up, and I won’t go to the kitchen looking for the card and flowers. I will wish I could, and I will think about the love of my first life and miss him and miss us and miss the person I used to be. A great irony is that Valentine’s Day happens to be the birthday of the love of my new life. So as I celebrate him and the new year that he gets to start that so many others don’t, I will be extra grateful and extra conscious of those hurting. And I will celebrate big because I don’t want any regrets. I will savor the moment knowing the next one isn’t promised and wishing it was.