Today is Valentine's Day and while I appreciate the history that the link provides, I'm struggling with the meaning which remains probably more personal and individual for each of us than anything else we do or ever have in our lives.
I have an unfair advantage in appreciating this. I had a chance this week to attempt a little skating away on the thin ice of a new day leaving my bride of thirty-one years, Sigrid (K. geboren Schubert) to sit, somewhat ashen-faced squeezing the life out of the armrests of a chair in the Cath Lab on the first floor of WWBackus Hospital, as she braced for the next installation of Wild Billy's Circus Story.
Self-absorbed ba$tard that I am, it wasn't until the following day that the heartaches I have caused the love of my life really hit me. We live in Norwich, CT, in a home we once shared with our two children, one now grown the other thinking she is already grown (and she's closer than I'd like to think she is) far from where either of us grew up, her far more so than I.
I'm from a couple of hours down the turnpike, New Brunswick, NJ (whose current Mayor was my classmate from 3rd through 8th grades. Sometimes it's the journey and other times the destination, I guess) while she came of age in Offenbach am Main, a city in its own right in the shadow of Frankfurt am Main, (West) Germany (it's hard to realize the number of years that have passed since we no longer needed to make that distinction.)
And of all the places she or I thought we might have been had we stayed married, where we are now is not one of those places. We met and married in her country at the height of the Cold War (that raged without waxing or waning even as GI Joe shook hands with Ivan at the Elbe River as World War II ended not with a bang but a whimper) and I never really gave any thought to living anywhere else.
We, or at least, I, lived without plan and for the most part, without care. In many respects, I guess, we are the Ant and Grasshopper of married couples and she has always defined who I am and whom I could ever hope to be. Knowing that she will, and always does, love me despite the egregious stupidity of life with me, ranging from not knowing how to properly close the hallway closet door after hanging my jacket up to the kinds of vapid thoughtlessness that only a spouse can commit, is all the incentive I need to be who I am and do what I do for my livelihood (that can't really be a surprise to the folks who pay me, can it?) and with my life (and you thought I was kidding about being the Thorn in the Rose of New England? Check a phone book for a roster of those who will tell you otherwise).
I've always admired Robert's note to Elizabeth Barrett, "Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. And I wasn't alone in my admiration--in both of those instances I wished for half the eloquence that each of those men showed to the women they loved, because I feel that way about my wife but lack the gift to express it.
And awakening with a start in of Backus Hospital Wednesday near midday, checking my watch (because that's a reflex of old deejays) and hearing her ask me me 'do you have someplace to be?' I realized, "I woke up in the darkness scared and breathin' and born anew/It wasn't the cold river bottom I felt rushing over me. It wasn't the bitterness of a dream that didn't come true/It wasn't the wind in the grey fields I felt rushing through my arms. No, no, baby, it was you/ So hold me close, honey, say you're forever mine. And tell me you'll be my lonely valentine." Happy Valentine's Day, my love.