It is Valentines Day in the good old USA. People everywhere are speaking of their wonderful Valentines and the wonderful gifts they have been given. Certain Man’s Wife has been guilty of the same. Her heart was delighted with two dozen multi-colored roses delivered on Thursday afternoon — ahead of the rush. Practical as ever, Certain Man has found that it’s a WHOLE lot cheaper to order on line and have things delivered ahead of time.
This morning, standing in the kitchen, Youngest Daughter rehearsed her good friend, Anna Downing’s take on Valentines Day — that it is a day to tell everyone you love that you love them and to say something noteworthy about them in the love message. Youngest Daughter got one this morning thanking her for being a good friend and wishing her a happy Valentines Day.
I like that very much.
I also got to thinking about the ways Certain Man has tied the stuff that life is made of to speaking love to his unobservant and often clueless spouse.
For one thing, he has loved our children so intently(I did mean intently) and well. Certain Man is not perfect and does not claim to be, but his children had better not hear anyone rehearse his faults. I’ve seen his children struggle with having Christian Charity towards people who have, however unwittingly, said or done things that have hurt their Dad, and it is no small thing to them. (They tend to rise up snarling!) Certain Man did not get that kind of loyalty and love by being a selfish or distant father. He draws them into his interests and into sharing his serving heart. For example, this morning he hooked his trailer to his farm pickup, loaded his tractor, corralled Middle Daughter and Youngest Daughter and headed up the road to stack wood for an older man in our church who is having a tough time. I looked at my girlies and knew that the last thing in the world they wanted to do this morning was go out in this bitter cold and pick up wood, but there was not a single word of complaint. “Sure Dad,” they said, and grabbed gloves and old sweatshirts and warm tzibble kops and piled into the old truck and away they went. He was jovial and exclaiming loudly about any of a number of things. They were marching to their father’s music and “ever’thin’ was good.”
That is something that always melts my heart. In this day when there are so many fathers who refuse to be dads and so many fathers who name the Name of Christ but whose hearts selfishly demand to be first or best or most, this Certain Man has never — and I truly do mean NEVER– made me choose between serving him or meeting a child’s needs. I sought to put him first, would often protest when he would encourage me to comfort a child or talk late to a teen or take a late night phone call from a adult child. “It’s fine, Hon,” he would/will say. “Don’t worry about it. There’ll be time later.”
This evening, we went out for a Valentines Day early dinner, and looking back on our trek, I have to smile when I think about how this evening could sort of define not only this man, but our marriage. Certain Man worked all day at one thing and then another, reminding me now and then that we were going out to eat “somewhere” and “sometime before it gets too late.” And also, “Maybe we could pick up those shop lights at Lowe’s when we are out.” He had helped Gary and Elaine with their firewood, he had taken extra care of his animals and equipment because of the cold, He had noted that some of the bird feeders were getting empty and he filled the feeders and replenished the suet hangers. It was a great aggravation when ACE Hardware was out of, not only ear corn but out favorite “nutsie” block that we particularly like for woodpeckers and for diverting the squirrels from other feeders, but he decided that we would look at Lowe’s when we got there.
So, along about four o’clock this afternoon, we got on our way. He had decided Outback! and I had gotten him a good gift card for there for Christmas, and there is a Lowe’s in this Lewes town, so he thought it would be the best destination. Heading down Route 1 to Lewes, he surprised me by suddenly getting into the left hand lane and turning on to the road to Argos Corner.
“I’m just gonna’ see,” he said, “if I can figure out where they live.” We both knew of whom he spoke — “Our Kids” as we’ve been wont to call them over the past few years. They were homeless for almost two years, shuttling between counties and motels and trouble until about a month ago when they landed in a trailer “where the store had burned” in this small Sussex County community. I had made a trip through a couple of weeks ago, but hadn’t been able to discern which trailer was theirs. But Certain Man has discerning powers that I lack, and the trailer was soon found.
“That’s it, right there!” Said Certain Man.
“I guess it is,” I agreed. “Same vehicle, and look! He still has his old classic car.”
I noted the completely curtained windows, the big “No Trespassing” sign in the window. He noted that the trash was already beginning to pile up in back. Certain Man made a U-turn at the deserted intersection and we resumed our trip to Lewes, considerably more pensive than we had been. Traffic was heavy as we came into the seaside town, and as we pulled into the turn lane that went to Outback, I noted the crowded parking lot.
“I’ll have trouble finding a parking place,” said Certain Man, “So I’ll just drop you off at the door and you can put our names in and then I’ll come on in.” He pulled up to the curb and I bailed out, and went in. The waiting area was crowded, and a hostess took my name and handed me a buzzer.
“Do you know how long the wait is?” I asked when I could get an word in edgewise.
In response to a quick question, a harried looking co-hostess looked up briefly and said, “60-70 minutes. At least.” I clutched the buzzer and decided to go and talk to Certain Man. I looked all around the parking lot to no avail and finally called him.
“Hon, it’s going to be a 60-70 minute wait. We don’t want to wait that long, do we?”
“No way! I’m having to park way out in the far parking lot anyhow, and I wondered how long a wait it was going to be. I’ll be right back up to pick you up. Let’s go up to Cracker Barrel and see how long that wait will be.” And that was just fine with me. I happened to have even better gift cards to Cracker Barrel.
“Go in and see how long the wait,” said Certain Man five minutes later as we pulled into the parking lot. “I’ll go park.”
“Maybe five minutes,” said the pleasant hostess at the crowded Cracker Barrel. “Not long.”
I put our names in under “Daniel” and called him with the news. Actually, by the time he was walking across the parking lot, he heard them page us for our table. We had a very nice time at our “early” dinner. He had fish, I had chicken. (Is anyone who knows us surprised?) The conversation was good, and I even sent a picture of Certain Man and a short note to his children:
Me and my Valentine went to Outback to dine.
60-70 minutes to wait just wasn’t fine.
Off to Cracker Barrel we go-
got seated just so-
and decided that we wouldn’t whine.
(Poor rhyme, I know, but I was in the middle of organizing it into something impressive when Certain Man proceeded to tell me about a restaurant that gives a percent off if you do not use any electronic devices while in the establishment and I considered that a hint to put my cell phone away! Besides, we had plenty to talk about.)
We did not linger long over our meal, and soon we were on our way to Lowe’s to pick up lights for the shop that Certain Man has been working on for some time now. First, we got a bag of ear corn, and a mealyworm cake and feeder for our beloved Bluebirds and then we picked out four shop lights and the bulbs for them. Then I waited while Certain Man looked for hinges to fix a cupboard door that has been giving his orderly soul distress. I looked at our loaded cart, thought about this Valentines Day Date and it made me laugh. I just really like this guy who is always taking care of farm and family and birds and people. He made one more stop at the Best ACE Hardware in Lewes where he found the seed, nut and fruit roll that he wanted and we bought TWO so we wouldn’t run out, and finally we were done.
We came home in the cold winter twilight to our warm house and the lights of home. We unloaded the shop lights and then he fixed the door that was bothering him, bedded down his animals for the cold winter night, checked his chickens, put pellets in the pellet stove, went up to Gary’s and filled his outdoor furnace as full of wood as it would hold, put out his corn and the other bird seed that he had gotten and puttered around pondering many things.
He has no idea how loved the ordinary things of this day have made me feel.
And so I thought about this man that I’ve loved for so long- and it reminded me of a song of that Steve and Annie Chapman sang.
(Wherever the seasons of life find this Certain Man, I still pick him!)
Seasons of a Man
I am the springtime, when everything seems so fine
Whether rain or sunshine, you will find me playing
Days full of pretending, when a dime is a lot to be spending
A time when life is beginning, I am the springtime
I am the summer, when days are warm and longer
And the call comes to wander, but I can’t go far from home
When the girls become a mystery, and you’re barely passing history
Thinking old is when you’re thirty, I am the summer
I am the autumn days, when changes come so many ways
Looking back I stand amazed that time has gone so quickly
When love is more than feelings, its fixing bikes and painting ceilings
Its when you feel a cold when coming, I am the autumn days
I am the winter, when days are cold and bitter
And the days I can remember number more than the days to come
When you ride instead of walking, and you barely hear the talking
And goodbyes are said too often, I am the winter
But I’ll see spring again in heaven, and it will last forever.
(You can listen to this here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3us8-U9-4s)