Valentine’s Day has come and gone. The chocolate truffles have been consumed, the romantic dinner long since digested and/or the lovely new earrings happily worn. These are the symbols of this day of romance, the something intimate given to our beloveds to let them know how special they are to us.
Well, not quite. There are some among us who haven’t a clue. They are shopping impaired generally, and especially so when it comes to this particular holiday. Allow me to present my husband, Bruce, a steadfast and otherwise wonderful spouse who just can’t get a handle on this romantic gesture thing.
I know – and he knows I know – that he loves me a lot, that he would sacrifice and struggle and give anything to make me happy, which he does. Honestly, he is a prince. Just, please, don’t require him to go shopping for something other than a power tool or ski equipment.
Even something as simple as a grocery store can be a challenge. I once dispatched him to purchase some Cool Whip. He forgot what he was supposed to get (this was before cellphones), remembering only that it was something-whip, and he wandered the aisles until he found a correct-sounding item. He proudly presented me with a jar of Miracle Whip when he arrived home. Sigh.
There are two problems when it comes to Valentine’s Day specifically. First, there’s Christmas (December) and right afterward my birthday (January), so by February he’s pretty well exhausted any gift-giving ideas. For the major holidays, we usually agree on some big item we might want jointly – like a new mattress or a new chair, and that’s what we get. But I really have to leave him on his own for Valentine’s Day. I mean, how romantic would it be to tell him what kind of gesture to make?
The second problem is that I’m hard to buy for. Except for a watch and my wedding ring, I don’t much care for jewelry. I don’t like perfume or scented soaps and smelly lotions, most of which make me sneeze. I’ve had a weight problem for much of our marriage, so chocolates are out. And clothing – uh, no. For someone who rarely buys even his own clothes, attempting a garment purchase would be too cruel.
Besides, Bruce is color blind. Back when we were dating in college, he needed a sport coat, so he purchased the first one that fit. I remember it to this day. The label described the color as dirty camel. Not a true camel color. Not brown. Not gray. Not beige. Actually, it was all of those – and it matched absolutely nothing.
Traditional Valentine colors of red, pink and even orange are all pretty much indistinguishable to him, so most anything requiring a color choice would be a minefield.
A couple of decades ago he had a real aha moment when spying me raking pine needles from under the 20 ponderosas in our yard. For Valentine’s Day that year, I received my very own pitchfork, with a bright red bow tied on it. Odd but useful and, for Bruce, moving in the direction of romantic.
He felt a lot of pressure the following year, so, working with his spot welder and using a cutting torch, he crafted a metal heart on a metal base. On the heart he soldered: BP+SP. It was rough-hewn, and it was wonderful. This was truly romantic, and it remains one of my most favorite things.
But that was the zenith. In subsequent years he’s given me flowers, which I do love. What I really love is that he is still trying to make a special gesture for that special day, even though I know – and he knows I know – that what he does the other 364 days of the year is what really counts.
Sometimes Bruce scours the newspaper to find some event near Valentine’s Day that I might enjoy. This year we went to see Six Foot Swing downtown. We’ve known the lead singer since she and our youngest son performed together in high school. It was a great evening, but I wish Valentine’s Day wasn’t so tough for Bruce or for other men (and women, too, I suppose) who struggle so with it.
The weather is getting better these days, and the snow is off the ground. So out I go to tackle the pine needles, still using that Valentine’s Day pitchfork from long ago. It may not be romantic, but it’s something that’s lasted longer than chocolates or a candlelit dinner ever could. It’s solid and substantive – just like the love I know that came with it and which continues to be shown in so many real and meaningful ways today.