I have made no secret of my dislike for the coming holiday, which as I’m writing this, I guess has arrived already. Valentine’s day had as many negative memories for me as positive ones. Sure, there are the failed dates, the awful embarrassments of flowers or dinners that didn’t go well, but it’s not those that sit in my mind.
I dislike the holiday because there was always so much pressure to not only do something but to do something spectacular. There was the early holiday in our relationship that I thought I’d done perfectly. I took Andrea to dinner at the bistro in Omaha’s Old Market, bought tickets for a fancy, gourmet meal, jazz playing in the main room. Instead, the musician had partaken of at least a full bottle of Johnny Walker before hitting the stage so while eating dinner, nearly every couple was interrupted by the sax player who was annoyed that they were paying attention to their date and not him. He was, after all, a famous person, he’d played with the great Count Basie, he’d played with Ray, why in the hell aren’t you listening to my story that has taken nearly as long as my full set to tell?
There was the night Andrea’s family had told her there was a 100% certainty that I was going to ask her to marry me. I didn’t, you see, and that just made the night horrible. I had asked her father if I could marry his daughter, an old, tired, and uncomfortable situation that I’ll likely make my daughters’ boyfriends do as well, but I never gave an indication as to when I would do it. But the women in her family and circle of friends being who they were, they had all convinced themselves that I had a big, elaborate, fantastical plan that would start at dinner and culminate in my bending down on one knee and asking. Nobody asked me how I was going to do this, nor did I tell a soul how I was going to ask Andrea to marry me, but gossip being what it is not only did I unwittingly disappoint her, but all her friends played into the notion that I must have cold feet for not asking her then and there.
I had a gig one Valentine’s day that I took because we desperately needed the money. I had a contract, could not get out of it, and Andrea had said it was OK. Little did I know, being young, stupid, and let’s face it, a guy, didn’t know that meant “don’t listen to what I say, do what I want, and that’s to not be working on the night of Valentine’s day!” In the end it was cancelled at the last minute, I had bought the requisite presents well in advance, and . . . well, we had Abbi about 9-10 months later, let’s just say.
Now I hate it because the clock has struck Midnight, I watch the numbers flash on the clock next to me on the nightstand, and I look and see the empty spot on my bed. It’s not that I simply want to fill the space. I miss her. I miss the fact that I was scrambling to get it right even though I never did. I miss having her being funny and goofy when I act falsely indignant about not getting anything for Valentine’s Day but having to buy her presents. I miss seeing her face, the sparkle in her storm-blue eyes, as she opens whatever it is I got for her, be it a small box of Godiva chocolates, or on a good year a little blue box from Tiffany’s.
This isn’t a holiday where the kids miss their Mom. I mean, I’m sure they do, it’s Valentine’s Day, but it’s not like Mother’s Day or Christmas. This is the Hallmark Holiday that I hated all those years and now I look and realize that it’s a day that pulls at my heart and mine alone. It’s not a coincidence, I guess, that Cupid uses an arrow. Because when you pull that shaft out of your heart, it tears, rips, and pulls the pieces of you with it as it goes away with the one you love. I know that sounds harsh, but when I see the commercials, the billboards, the couples holding hands and hear the colleagues talking about dinner with their girlfriends or wives I am reminded what they have and I don’t.
I do have one bright spot, a gift given just today, (well, yesterday now) that I had not expected and was both heartbroken and so very happy to receive.
Sunday I had a column published on Rene Syler’s website “Good Enough Mother”. It talked about how Andrea hated getting pictures taken and how we don’t have any pictures of the last 4-5 years.
Then a friend from our days in Texas, whose link is up there on the top of the page here, “Photographer in the Family” told me she had a couple outtakes from our last photo session there in Texas. She had an amazing photo, Andrea with her eyes closed, trying very hard to hide the Bells Palsey she was suffering after the birth of the twins. She was beautiful, the boys cuddled to her chest, and it made me cry. I know that doesn’t take much for me lately, I miss her an awful lot.
But it’s not often I tear up and I’m happy about it. This was such a dear, wonderful gift, a picture of Andrea that she kept from me, that someone had found, buried in the archive of her photos, and it just made me happy to see her . . . It wasn’t a memory of a session where I’d been, Andrea didn’t want me there when she had these photos taken. It was an opportunity to see her, beautiful as she was, in a calm, happy, serene moment. I was tearing not from mourning, but because I loved her, and I miss her, and it made me happy to see her.
It was the best Valentine’s Day gift anyone could have given me, even though my expectations are notoriously low. Thank you, my friends, for making this day bearable. I’m sharing the photo, copyrighted by them, but I hope they don’t mind. And if you’re in the Dallas area take a look at their stuff. I couldn’t recommend them more.
Happy Vaelntine’s Day, my love. I miss you.