My first Valentine was my daddy. If you had a good father, you know the tremendous stabilizing influence they provide. While other valentines came and went, my daddy remained.
Do we mourn mothers more than fathers? Perhaps it seems so. An emotional umbilical cord links us to them. And yet, when we lose a father, we lose a force, an anchor, a defender.
I searched for a protector. I needed one more than ever. Daddy died, and my mother was terminally ill, in my care. I lost a father and became a sort of parent all in the same day in 2006.
I wasn’t ready for it. I wanted to be a daughter, the kind that took her daddy to fun places like air shows and talked to her mom at any hours about her troubles. Not the kind to plan a funeral or search for insurance proceeds or watch her mother’s face waste into the shape of a skull.
They were both my Valentines, really. They both signed the cards, decorated with flowers and hearts and drawings of smiling little girls. I’ve got them here at my home in a cookie tine. The cards always included handwritten notes. For a time, there was more. I’d wake on Valentine’s morning and discover a small stuffed toy or a bit of chocolate on my dresser. From Dad.
By that time, I was a grown woman. I’d moved back to my parents’ home and lived there a couple of years before buying my own house. I was single. Perpetually single. I definitely wanted a sweetheart, a good man who I adored and who’d ask me to spend the rest of my life with him. I’d had prospects. A disappointing first love. But it helps when you are nursing hurts over one love that another love stands in the gap. It was nice I had a daddy who gave me chocolate. A daddy who loved me.
He died before I met and married my husband at age 42. I had a forever Valentine. Soon after the wedding, Mom died, too. I found evidence of Valentine’s days gone by at their home.
At the bottom of my parents’ dresser drawer laid the kind of valentines kids in my era purchased in a box of 40 and passed out to classmates. I’d given one to Dad. And he’d kept it.
“To Daddy,” I’d written on the back. On the front, a squirrel held a heart. So many times what I find is bittersweet because as much as I had, it is now gone. But this time, when I found the Valentine, gratitude reigned. I’ve found lots of greeting cards at my parents’ home. Each time I’m glad I expressed what they meant to me. I’m glad I said “I love you.”
I’m also glad the cards, tangible expressions of love, remain. I know my parents loved me, and I know I reciprocated. I “hear” them again in these things left behind. And they are with me again on Valentine’s Day.
What you write may very well outlast you. Why don’t you send an old-fashioned letter or a card, telling someone what they mean to you? After all, Valentine’s Day isn’t just for lovers.
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