I wish you were more romantic. I wanted to feel special today, and you forgot.
On Superbowl Sunday in the year 2005, my then “boyfriend”, soon to be fiance and then husband, drove a Penske moving truck with his cat in his lap and his life in boxes, from Florida to New Jersey, to begin a new life with me. We had been through a 7-year long-distance relationship together, and after saving lots of money and doing lots of planning, the love of my life decided to finally make his move and leave his friends, family, and job as an EMT in Florida.
Ten days later, it was Valentine’s Day. Our first one as a couple, living together. Don was still unpacking his 50,000 boxes and thousands of various random items, life was chaotic, and we were both still getting used to the idea of being each other’s new “roommates.”
When Valentine’s Day came, the hopeless-romantic girl part of me took over, and I guess I expected my man to do something epic. I was picturing beautiful hand-written poetry or cards, gorgeous floral bouquets, a romantic gourmet dinner made by him (even though the man couldn’t boil water, literally), spontaneous slow-dancing in our living room, chocolate-covered strawberries (my favorite) being fed to me as we gazed into each other’s eyes; the works. I don’t know why, really. Maybe all the years of this Hallmark, commercial holiday had finally gotten to me. Maybe the pressures of society and seeing endless girls getting roses at the office and none for me, played on my heart. Maybe I was so depressed and sad in past Valentine’s Days, because I pretty much never had a Valentine, that I was convinced THIS was my year to finally reap the rewards of true love and romance.
I don’t know what made me expect and picture those things, but those things were not what I got. The spontaneous dancing never happened, and the flowers never came. Instead, my guy parked himself down on the worn-out couch, let out a big sigh, and exclaimed: “Damn. I’m exhausted.” I proceeded to run into the bathroom and cry.
“How could you forget Valentine’s Day?’,I selfishly wailed to him through the door. “I wish you were more romantic. I wanted to feel special today, and you forgot.” I continued to cry for way longer than was necessary, and then I made him feel really bad and really guilty for forgetting, on our first Valentine’s Day together. Now, looking back on this moment that I am NOT proud of, this would have been the perfect opportunity for my beloved, to grab his 500 million boxes and his cat, and run screaming away from me as fast as he possibly could, and into the arms of a normal woman, who is sane. It also would have been the perfect time for him to call me out on being a total whiny bitch about nothing. But he didn’t. That is not who he was. Ever. Instead, this dear man said very sincerely and genuinely and with a bit of a smirk: “Oh boy. I think I’m in trouble here. I’m sorry, sweetie. I just moved in and I was so tired from the move, it just slipped my mind. I promise I’ll do better next year. I won’t forget. I’m sorry.”
Later that year, we got engaged, and in 2006, we got married. Him forgetting Valentine’s Day became an ongoing joke with us throughout our almost 5 years together, and each year from then on, he would get me 2 cards instead of one, 2 bags of candy instead of one, and 2 bouquets of roses instead of one – all to make up for the “one” he forgot the first time around. When we laughed about it, which was often, I would ask him why he didn’t pack up his shit and leave me right then and there, to save himself from a life of living with an unappreciative girly-bitch. He laughed it off and said: “I will admit to getting a bit peeved when you said I’m not romantic. All I could think was: ‘Not romantic? I just packed up my entire LIFE and moved to freakin’ NEW JERSEY, for you!!! Who moves to New Jersey? This place sucks! You don’t get more romantic than THAT, woman!” This theme became such an inside joke for us in our time together, that he repeated that question as part of his self-written wedding vows to me. “My love for you sometimes defies all logic. After all, who moves to New Jersey? On purpose?” Our friends and family roared with laughter.
Now, today, five and a half years after my husband’s sudden death, it is Valentine’s. I can’t help but think about all the many ways in which I have changed since losing him, and all the many things I wish like hell I could tell him I’m sorry for. Before I knew my husband, I spent way too many years being upset and sad that I didn’t have anyone on Valentine’s Day. And then I DID have someone on Valentine’s Day, FINALLY! Not only did I have someone, I had someone who changed his life for me, changed where he was living for me, took a risk on love for me. And I didn’t appreciate it. Not that first year. I was too focused on my perception of what Valentine’s Day meant, and what I should be “getting” as a result of it. The whole time, the greatest gift of my life, was sitting right there on my couch, exhausted from just moving his entire life – for me. For us. From that day forward, the entire idea of Valentine’s Day, and love itself, changed for me. I started caring less about why he didn’t spontaneously get me flowers, and started seeing all the incredible things this man did for me every single day – things that matter. Now, I’m not going to bullshit anyone here. I am STILL a hopeless romantic. I love flowers, I love spontaneous dancing in the living room, and I’m still waiting for my gourmet romantic dinner – made with love from a person who cares about me. I still get giddy and silly-happy from all of those things.
But now, I appreciate those things with a fire I can’t quite explain. When the person I have feelings for sent me roses on my birthday this past fall, I couldn’t stop smiling. I also must have thanked him 17 times, minimum. It just never feels like enough times to say thank you or show my appreciation, because I can’t ever thank my husband again for all he did for me, and that breaks my heart.
I believe, truly, that one of the ways in which the people we love who have died, stay with us, is when we take on some of their best character traits. My husband was kind, big-hearted, and appreciative and aware of doing the small things that were actually big things. I have now become this way, and I am truly thankful whenever someone does something nice for me, especially when it is unexpected. He gave that gift to me, and that piece of him has stayed inside me, literally. My husband was not “romantic” in the way that most people would define that word. He was not the type of guy that would pick up flowers for no reason, or make me dinner. (Again, he was the worst cook in the universe, and he would often joke that if anything ever happened to him on the job and he didn’t come home, he promised he would send me my own personal chef.) But looking back now, the things that my husband did on a daily basis, were absolutely beyond incredible. Everyday that I’m alive, I wish I could thank him for doing these things. I wish I could tell him how much I appreciated all of it. I am honestly not sure if I told him that enough. It feels like I didn’t, and I hate that. All I can do now, is see what’s in front of me going forward, and recognize the kinds of things someone does for you, when you are their priority. When your happiness, is their priority.
This Valentine’s Day, I would love it so much if I were to get some flowers, and I would once again appreciate them on a whole new level. I would love some chocolate-covered strawberries or a thoughtful little card, letting me know I am being thought of by someone important to me. But even more than that, I will be looking for those little things that are actually the big things – and I will feel lucky to know love like that, and to have had love like that. I miss my husband every single day of my life, and this time of year it feels more raw, because we were jut starting our life together, and now that is a life that cannot be. I cannot ever tell him that I saw and I felt all the little, big things he did for me. But I can tell you. On this upcoming Valentine’s Day, I would like to list just a few of those unromantic, romantic things, that my beautiful husband did for me, every single day.
Maybe if I tell you all, he will somehow know, that he has forever changed my definition of romance, love, and Valentine’s Day, and that I am grateful for it. Thank you.
1. Always handed me the keys to his car with a full tank of gas, and the oil checked, so that Id be safe.
2. Often left himself with NO money in his wallet before work, so that he could give his last $10 to me.
3. Reminded me that I was beautiful, often, and meant it.
4. Helped me to the bathroom, and waited on me hand and foot for a whole week, when I threw out my back.
5. Held my hair and washed my face off with a washcloth when I was puking my guts out from a bad reaction to Percacet.
6. The way he looked at me when I was performing or speaking onstage, like he was in awe of me.
7. He asked for my dad’s permission to marry me.
8. The way he would do things he didn’t want to do (like taking 8 weeks of ballroom dancing lessons so we could do a Foxtrot at our wedding reception), just to make me happy.
9. The way he made me feel safe from everything scary in the world.
10. Holding my hand and explaining things in a calm voice to me, when I would freak out on airplanes.
11. I trusted him with my life. He would have taken a bullet for me, or given his life for me. No doubt.
12. Held my hand until I was asleep, and then longer.
13. He moved his life from Florida to New Jersey, one week before Valentine’s Day, because that’s what it was going to take to be with me.