Some years ago I spent a most unusual Valentine’s evening having dinner with my parents. It was six weeks before my dad’s death. Not that we knew the day was so close but his strength was failing and we we could see that. Not known really for his romantic gestures Poppa wanted to give my mom a special dinner. I’ve learned that when we can’t do something it often becomes a thing we want to do very badly. And dad wanted mom to have a real Valentine’s Day dinner. A proper celebration. Prime rib and all the fixings. So mom took the assignment to make sure that she had a nice dinner and enlisted my aid to make it happen. We ordered prime rib take out from a favorite hotel, packed up a tablecloth, china, silverware, flowers, and were sure to get permission to use a conference room at the skilled-care facility as our dining room for the evening.
We got there, got Poppa down to the conference room and found it full of family. Not our family—another family. Somebody had given them permission to use the room too. A teen in a wheelchair-cum-gurney laden with equipment needed a Valentine’s dinner too. We would have been glad to share a dining room but the conference room barely held all his family so we were glad to find another spot.
We ended up in the mini cafeteria that served as the employee break room. Actually it was one of Poppa’s favorite spots. He had full permission to wheel himself down and have all the diet soda and snacks he wanted. I was never sure it was truly policy, but the staff encouraged his movement, decision making, and independence. And for Valentine’s dinners they didn’t charge mom and I for soda. So, the break room it was with all the clinical ambience of hospital white melamine and fluorescent lighting for our formal little table. We ate, we talked. Poppa was grateful. It was a prime rib dinner for Valentine’s Day.
That dinner was a object lesson about how love (the noun) requires love (the verb). Caring about each other and showing it matter and take effort. A friend of mine says that location doesn’t matter only who you’re with. I like that. Recently he even stoically sat though a stage performance of Les Miserable (his spelling, it wasn’t his thing) because, hey, it was a long date with his wife! Love (the noun) requires love (the verb).
So on this Valentine’s Day here are my suggestions:
Remember that advertisers say what they say and show the images they show to make money not to enhance your relationships. Same goes for sappy shows. Don’t base your emotional health on somebody else’s money-making needs.
To those without a sugar—Be glad love exists.
Don’t envy lovers the joy they have in each other.
If you have to mourn, do it privately.
If you have to eat a whole carton of ice cream, well, enjoy it don’t just shovel it in.
To those of with a sugar—
Love the person more than the gift.
If the roses wilt in a couple of days gently pull the petals off and dry them.
Don’t give the gift you want to give, give the gift your sugar wants to receive.
Enjoy the labor of love.