My Quiet Valentine

red heart shaped ornament
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Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. It hit me with a blizzard of emotions, pushing me back on my knees, asking yet again, “why is he gone” and “how can this be happening to me”.  Of course there weren’t any answers. They’re never are.

I was actually kind of surprised by Valentine’s impact. I mean, Peter and I never really celebrated the day. Early on in our marriage, I started to realize this wasn’t going to be a day for celebration. Our fist Valentines, I got him a card and gushed how much he meant to me. He said thanks, and gave me nothing. The day after our second Valentine’s Day as a married couple, we were walking through an old K-mart trying to get my labor going for my fist child. Peter reached for a heart-shaped box of chocolates, reduced by fifty percent and in our cart with a, “Happy Belated Valentine’s Day”. This is when I knew, most of my Valentine’s Day would be spent without gifts or fanfare. And, to be honest, I stopped trying too after the K-mart instance.  But it was okay. In fact,  it was more than okay.  In fact, the K-mart incident became a humorous antidote that he and I would retell with laughter and Peter reminding me I did eat the chocolates. I mean, I was pregnant.

Yesterday, my daughter reminded me of getting the exact same boxes of chocolates one year.  I think they were a two for one deal.  She and I had a long, loving laugh. My daughter texted “oh, dad”.  Peter was a frugal;man who seriously did not get the need to celebrate love one day out of the year as he thought it should be every day. You had to understand how his brain worked.

He wasn’t one for verbal romance. Peter didn’t say “oh, you’re beautiful”, or “you mean so much to me”. He didn’t even say”I love you” very often. In fact, “I love you’s” came sparingly in the beginning of our marriage. Eventually, those came more often. Maybe I broke him down because Peter began to sign off each phone conversation or kiss goodnight with those three words in the latter part of our marriage. Until then, his response to my confession of my love for him, which I  did say often, was “uh-huh” or “ditto” from the movie Ghost.  Seriously. After we saw that movie, he used that response for years.

Peter’s hesitancy to say “I love you” or anything romantic was hard for me at first. I am a natural romantic about life. I mean, I am a romance writer. But as I matured and as I grew more confident in our love, I didn’t need to hear his confessions of love or attraction. I still expressed mine. I mean, the man was sexy as hell. But, I didn’t wait or anticipate it back. His long hours at work to provide for his family,  how he fathered our children, his patience with me, the way he spoke to my mom with kindness and respect especially when her mind started to fail her, and the way I caught him, or others caught him, looking at me, I knew. Peter was a man of very few words and his actions were his chatter.

Don’t get me wrong. Peter had his moments. I would get beautiful Christmas cards or birthday cards. In them, he didn’t write much, but would tell me he spent time looking for just the right one. And I had no reason to doubt him because he was the most honest person I ever knew, sometimes brutally so.

Peter also was a wonderful gift-giver. His gifts were well planned and thought out. He would buy me additions to my Rudolph collection because he heard me say the ones I was missing. Of course, the last one he gave, he did so with a ‘I’m not getting you anymore’.  Okay, so my Rudolph collection is a bit overgrown.  Once, he searched for a gravy bowl to match my aunt’s china I inherent because her hear me casually mentioning to my daughter the Thanksgiving it was the only thing I was missing from a complete set. And, he gave me statues to represent the family, ornament with my book’s name on it, made me something to hold my Christmas village, and planted a Rosy Sharon bush because I told a story of how they remind me of my childhood. His gifts made me cry with joy knowing the love he had for me.

So, the compliments, the romantic accolades, even the “I love you”s, may have been scare, but the ways Peter showed his love were not. Words were not his thing. They were mine, for sure, but not his.  And I never wanted him to be who he wasn’t. And he felt comfortable enough with me, secure enough in our love, where he didn’t have to push to be something he wasn’t. Aren’t those the true meanings of love? To know someone, to love someone, enough to do things and create things for them? To feel so safe in the relationship, you don’t need to pretend to be something you’re not? Isn’t that what matters?  I think so. At least I think so for us.

Yesterday, even though it wasn’t a day we celebrated much, if at all, and it wasn’t a day full of memories, it still knocked me down and into bed in grief. Yesterday, I wanted him back. Yesterday, I knew he wouldn’t be back.  Yesterday reminded me Peter was my Valentine’s and I was his. Oh, he didn’t say as much, but boy did he show it. And wow, how lucky am I to have been his until Death parted us?