Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine Humbug

The National Day of Love is upon us again.  It’s a holiday with roots in the Christian tradition (Saint Valentine) and its relationship to romantic love can be traced from the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.  Hallmark and American capitalism has evolved the day into a 14.7 billion industry.  Today you can even use a service to trick your friends into thinking you have a special someone! For years my dearest friends and I would go to one of the fanciest most romantic restaurants in town and sit on the patio and mock couples (politely and amongst ourselves).  We would do so all the while saying "Next year with boyfriends..."  This charming tradition was deeply rooted in jealousy as I’m the sappiest most romantic putz around.

When I’m in a relationship I use all of the traditional (and not so traditional) accoutrements available:  flowers, candy, trips, meals…little forget me not things, etc.  Years ago I tried the online dating phenomenon.  For my profile I used the headline “Husband material seeking husband” and proceeded to wax poetic on the virtues of walks on the beach, soft music, roaring fires, etc.  Minutes after letting the profile go live I got a message from somebody helpfully telling me that I was clearly desperate and if I wanted to find somebody I should dial it back.  All wasn't lost:  he did say the photo was cute.

My parents met on a blind date, had a romance filled adventure of a courtship, and were together for nearly 60 years.  It was not idyllic and without issues - they complemented each other well and worked at it everyday.  They genuinely revered each other.  Their love was deep, profound and epic.  Theirs is a tough act to follow. 

After Dad’s stroke and Mom’s heroic care giving – I assumed that would be the end of the story. I’ve seen the movies and TV shows – one true love, right?  And old people don’t get all gooey, right?

About five years ago Mom started to perk up after Dad's passing.  There was an additional spring in her step.  She was becoming more active in the retirement community she had moved to.  “I want you to meet a new friend of mine,” she said one day while we were on Skype.  She got up, sat him down in front of the computer and said “Thor – this is Craig.  Get to know each other!  I’ll be back.”  And off she toddled to the other room giving me the opportunity to take in this elegant man sitting in front of me.  

Love blossomed for Mom again.  She and Thor became companions and dear loving friends.  They traveled together and shared their lives with others in the community and their families.  I began getting photos of them at dances, parties and a variety of events.  His family included her in their weekly Sunday dinners.  I enjoyed a monthly brunch with them, talking about the latest gadget.  Their politics, religious affiliations and backgrounds were very different, but they reveled in each other’s company and brought out the best in each other.  Neither was a replacement for the spouse no longer here – instead it was something different, special and wonderful.

Thor died recently, and his funeral was this week.  The service was filled with friends and family – and the eulogies described a gentle, generous and loving man – all of which I had the good fortune to experience myself.  I’m inspired that Mom in her 70’s and Thor in his 80’s found each other and proved that love is not just for the young.

I look towards the Day of Love with a different perspective.  It seems I have another 40 (or more?) years to find it!  Happy Valentines Day.

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