Last week, as all of you know, was Valentine’s Day. This day has always held a special place in my heart as it was when A Certain Young Man and A Certain Young Woman had their first date. (If you wish, you can reference that story here: https://maryannyutzy.com/2007/02/14/943/
— but even though that’s a funny story, it isn’t this story.)
So last week was extremely full. Certain Man had things to do in his chicken house, he had things to ponder about church. He had a sermon to prepare, and he was not thinking at all about Valentine’s Day. So it was that Valentine’s Day slipped up on him. Not only did he not order his usual flowers for his wife, he also didn’t even think about ordering the flowers for his daughters, in the order of his yearly tradition.
Last Thursday dawned, and nary a word was spoken about it being Valentine’s Day. It was Bible Study morning, and because of other considerations, we were meeting at the Big Bontrager House on Shawnee Road for our weekly lesson. Sometime during the course of the morning, Middle Daughter muttered to me quietly, “Do you think Dad forgot flowers this year?” She looked a bit embarrassed and then said quickly, “I mean, he doesn’t have to get me flowers, he has done so much for me this year, but I just wondered if he decided not to do it this year, I mean, he always does!“
“I don’t know,” I said back to her. “He hasn’t said anything to me about it, but I’m pretty sure he will be getting you flowers. I’m not sure what he’s going to do about Rachel, though. She has Rob to get her flowers for Valentine’s Day, so maybe he isn’t getting her any, but I’m sure he will get you some. They might be there when you get home today.”
When Bible Study was over, we decided to go to lunch with Certain Man, and as everybody was going into the restaurant, I held back a little and whispered to Certain Man, “Did you get the girls flowers for Valentine’s Day?”
He looked like he was aggravated with himself. “I plumb forgot until this morning,” he said, “But I took care of it. I called Lem, and he said he would get Rachel’s for her (you need to Venmo him the money) and I ordered Deborah’s, and she’ll get hers tomorrow.” Okay then. The girls were taken care of, and knowing my man the way I do, I suspected that I would “get mine tomorrow” as well.
The day passed pleasantly and Friday dawned bright and clear. I had lots of plans for that day, but then we remembered that we were to go to lunch in Georgetown with two of CM’s friends from the plumbing department at Sussex County. Before we left, Certain Man left “to pick up Deborah’s flowers” at the Beaver’s Branch, our local florist shop. He soon returned. carrying a lovely arrangement for me as well. A few years ago, I begged him to skip the roses and bring me carnations instead. They were all he could afford back years ago when he first brought me flowers, and I honestly prefer them. They last longer, they have such nice color and I have all those memories tied up in this flower. Besides, they are a whole lot cheaper!
As you can imagine, I was tickled pink with this arrangement, and I sincerely hoped that he could tell that I was. The mood was sweet, and conversation was pleasant. We got ready and left for Georgetown and had a good-humored and amicable ride. We pulled up into the parking lot beside the restaurant where we were to meet our friends, and I was finishing a message to someone on my phone. Certain Man got out and strode purposefully around the front of the Mini-van.
“Well, I’ll be!” I thought delightedly, watching him out of the corner of my eye. “He’s gonna’ come around and open the door for me!”
But then, about the time he got across the front of the car to the right fender, he stopped. He seemed to be looking at something across the parking lot to his left, where a new motel was being built.
“He’s just distracted a bit,” I thought, and I dropped my phone into my purse and zipped it shut, smoothed my skirt and looked to see if he was coming.
He wasn’t. He was just sanding there, looking at the new motel.
I decided that it was probably in my best interest to get on out and get on with our trek, so I opened the door and he looked over from his perusal of the construction. I couldn’t help it. I had to say something.
“I thought you were coming over to open my door,” I said, laughing.
He looked surprised, then immediately contrite. “I’m sorry!” He said, falling all over his words, “I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking, I should have -“
“It’s okay, Daniel,” I told him, laughing at his discomfiture. “It’s really okay! I can get myself out of the car.”
And it really was okay. I was thinking about it later, and about what love really is. What love looks like after 45 years of being married and what it’s all about. Is it really a man opening a car door while you wait for him to do it? I mean, REALLY???
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing anyone who feels that this is a necessary expression of love. I’m not saying they are wrong, but I’ve been thinking about all the ways this Certain Man says “love” to me and our family that has nothing to do with opening doors or even buying flowers.
Love is getting milk for our family every single time it’s needed, without being asked, or even being told that it’s needed. He never complains, he never looks for praise. He just does it.
Love is making sure there is a supply of pellets at the top of the ramp for our ever hungry pellet stove on these cold days. Love is carrying those 40 pound bags in and putting them into the stove so that it doesn’t run out – and so I don’t need to carry them – at least not usually.
Love is building things in his workshop for his adult children, answering questions over the phone about plumbing and giving practical advice that works. Love is pulling on his shoes and jacket to run up the road to help with a project at the BBH. (Big Bontrager House) Love is respecting our Offspringin’s as adults, loving them as individuals, and loving the people they have chosen to love and loving the grandchildren that have come into our lives.
Love is filling the bird feeders that I love so much. It’s bringing the filled laundry basket down to the laundry room the night before laundry day. It’s carrying the same basket, filled with folded laundry as well as the “hang up clothes” back up once the laundry is done. It’s clearing the table and putting away the leftovers after a meal. It’s making his own lunch when I’m not feeling well. It’s giving me support in the things that he knows are important to me and giving me space to be myself. I have always known that there are men out there who would have been extremely unhappy if they were married to me (That’s okay, I don’t particularly like them, either!) but there is a Certain Man who makes me feel cherished, protected and loved – and like he’s happy to be married to me.
We’ve been married a long time. We are both 65. I look back on the years since we married at 19 and a deep sense of gratitude for what we’ve been allowed to enjoy all these years nearly overwhelms me. There have been hard times. Relationships are costly in terms of self-will and pride and personal space and compromise. There will always be a lot of giving up and giving in and letting go and forgiving if a marriage is to thrive. And that is what we’ve always wanted. We are certainly not perfect, and maybe not even always healthy, but we didn’t want to just survive. We wanted to thrive.
We burned the ships, and my heart gives grateful praise.(Listen to Steve and Annie Chapman sing, “The Ships are Burning.”