Valentine’s Day was a special day in our house. My father Robert always made a big deal about his ‘ladies’ on Valentine’s.
If it fell on a work day I remember coming down the stairs for breakfast before school and seeing three bouquets of flowers on the table. One big bunch for my mom and two smaller bouquets for my sister and I.
Or if it was roses he would have 6 for mom and 1 long stemmed pink rose each for my sister and I.
It was always the same if mom’s gift was chocolate she got a lovely big tray and my sister and I would always getting identical smaller versions of the present.
He would also write all three of us adoring cards. The day really meant so much to him and he always put in such a big effort for us.
If it fell on a weekend, it was very much a family day and we were all treated to a meal out. I remember one time, when my sister and I were still pretty small.
Mom ordered a dessert and dad asked the waiter, without us noticing, to make the same dessert times two in kiddy size. And when they arrived my sister and I were so impressed!
But I have a complicated relationship with Valentine’s Day as years later when my we were older our father passed away on Valentine’s Day in 1989. It was noticed by the whole family that, losing him so young, it was particularly sad he passed away on a day he loved so much himself.
Needless to say I hated that day for many years after. When I started dating and boyfriends wanted to make an effort for Valentine’s I told them not to. I would just shut it out and wait for the day to pass.
But my amazing Aunt Kathy, my father’s sister, two years after he died wrote letters to my sister and I asking us to consider thinking of it as a special day again.
In her kind words she wanted us to remember why it was so exceptional to us growing up and that those reasons hadn’t changed. She wanted us to honour him by making the day important again ourselves.
And she would make sure to send us cards and treats or have us over for dinner every February 14 and it must have been her approach that thawed me eventually.
When I met my husband first he wanted to celebrate Valentine’s together. During those first few years I agreed to a minimal acknowledgement of the day. A card or some flowers. But I didn’t want to go for dinner or out on the night. And him being such a kind wonderful person he followed my lead and let me treat the day as best I could.
Some years have been more difficult than others as I remember the man who shaped me to the core. Who inspired me to be the kindest person I could be.
To always listen, be generous, try to be patient with yourself and others. The list of traits he inspired in my sister and I goes on and on.
But the one big shift did come when my daughter Joan was born.
As she got older I wanted to celebrate the day and have her growing up with the understanding of what it means to me but also with an appreciation for all the positive things Valentine’s Day canrepresent.
My husband and I also wanted to carry in Grandpa Robert’s tradition of getting her presents on the day as well.
So every February 14 both Joan and I get bouquets of flowers, cards, and chocolates. Only I get the bigger presents, just in keeping with tradition!
Happy Valentine’s Day.