Sunday, February 27, 2011

Not A Valentine's Day Massacre or a Total Eclipse of the Heart

Valentine’s Day was never too big a deal for Verna and me. We celebrated it with occasional gifts and dinner out and always a card. The cards were great because Verna, usually reticent about expressing her feelings or musing about our relationship, used them as an opportunity to open up to me. Although I communicate (too) well and Verna usually knew exactly how I felt, I used the cards as a way to remind her (and myself) why I loved and respected her so much.

Yes, I bought her flowers or chocolates on occasion, and I received an iTunes card or a CD, but I bubbled with excitement on Valentine’s morning when I opened Verna’s card to me and absorbed her heartfelt sentiments. Really, I’d ask myself, you love me for that?

But the bouquets of double-delight roses and the bars of fair trade chocolate and the quiet dinners at local restaurants are now hazy memories that spark my heart with unequal parts sadness and joy.

Valentine’s Day 2011, being the first one without Verna, was one I’d hoped would come and go, preferably, with the speed of light.

One of my friends, and my boss, sensed this and invited the kids and me over to his house for dinner. He and his wife share their Mill Valley bungalow with their two-and-half year son, two dogs, and a cat. His wife was more than 38 weeks pregnant when we showed up on their doorstep with pie and juice.

Erik and Megan bounced up against each other in their kitchen as the taco meat sizzled in the pan and the vegetarian beans bubbled, while Maya and Brady, the soon-to-be big brother toddler, shrieked, er, played throughout the house. Miguel kept laughing out loud at a book Erik gave him, S**t Your Kids Mess Up (or something like that).

The mixture of domestic tranquility and zaniness and impending birth anxiety was oddly comforting and definitely took my mind and heart off Valentine’s Day, which has grown way too Hallmark and unwieldy for a widower like me.

So we left with two tired kids and one parent who didn’t focus too much on loss and sorrow and Cupid’s arrow ripping a massive gash on my left side that may never heal.

Then I put Maya to bed and was confronted again with pain and sorrow and memories. I flossed and brushed her teeth, read her a story, and then lay down next to her for ten minutes. As we gazed at the ceiling she said to me, “I wish Mommy could come down and hug us. I miss Mommy.”

I gulped, and wondered if there’d be tears. “I miss Mommy too,” I said. “So much. I’d give anything to hug Mommy.”

Then my mind clicked into sheltering parent mode, and I said, “Let’s give Mommy a hug.”
So I crossed my arms over my chest and shook from side to side and said, “I love you, Verna.”

Maya did the same and said, “I love you, Mommy.”

A poignant and heartbreaking Valentine’s Day, 2011. Gratefully over and out.

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