Life Notes: Decades of Valentines
Sweet notes of lasting love

This is the month for those red, satin candy boxes, the mushy cards with messages that seem a bit exalted for everyday lovers and those expensive romantic dinners. It’s Valentine’s season!

At our house, there will be some minor festivities because even though we’ve marked five decades of Valentine’s Days together – even though the couple who breathlessly said our “I do’s” eons ago are definitely not the sort pictured in idealized magazine ads – there’s still some life in these old Valentines yet.

If history is prophecy, my husband will present peach-colored roses to a woman who will act surprised…even though that’s been our February 14 ritual forever. I’ll be whipping up chocolate pudding – the slow-cooking kind, not the instant – for a man who will never, ever tire of that comfort food.

And sometime during the day or evening, we’ll pause to reflect on the holy state of our matrimony, and why, even after all these years, we still feeling blessed by a good and long union.

I married the second man who asked me – I was, after all, 20 when we met, and bereft of prospects. He was an “older man,” sweet, funny and promising. According to my mother, he “had a future.”

We met on a blind date in the Neanderthal days, when that was the standard way to meet. We had a whirlwind romance – I remember several months into it we realized that we’d never seen each other in daylight.

Nine months after that blind date, we were married at my Philadelphia synagogue. We had a proper Jewish wedding that my parents planned, because I was busy taking my senior-year finals. Frankly, we barely knew each other. For us, marriage was a wild and primitive country. Who knew we’d have three kids, watch them grow up, watch them leave us and then return with husbands and seven astounding grandchildren. How our love had multiplied.

Not that it’s all been perfect.

Is it sacrilege on Valentine’s Day to note that I still wince when my beloved hums in the morning before I’m even conscious, or that he still can’t seem to get the difference between the lights and darks in the hampers? Dare I say, with Cupid’s quiver unfurling, that while I love this man more than I can explain, I do not love his penchant for cracking his knuckles, leaving lights on in rooms and insisting on maintaining a car whose cleanliness is next to godliness?

His list would also be quite lengthy. I wear a certain T-shirt that he despises, and my “nagging” (his word!) about household chores makes him less inclined to do them. My constant supervision of his diet makes him downright furious.

But there you have it – long marriage, with all its flaws. They don’t disappear on Valentine’s Day, alas. But they surely recede.

That’s because if you’re lucky, you learn early-on that no two people can harmonize all the time. There are off-key days and nights when you have to wonder what you got yourself into. But then there are those other times, the glorious times that don’t drive you crazy, but drive you – happy.

When everything else in my world is topsy-turvy – when disappointment and struggle seem to define the universe – my guy is there to take me in his arms for a hug that magically, instantly brightens the colors of my life.

I have needed those arms – and those hugs – more than I’d expected when we were both young and carefree. We’ve clung to one another as we buried our parents and survived the other sadnessses and troubles and terrors that do come down the pike.

At this Valentine’s stage, we’re linked by a sweeping recognition of what matters – and it isn’t the gushy stuff of Valentine commercialism. What matters is a love that transcends all the nitty-gritty, the petty, the petulant, the foolish gripes and grievances – a love that touches the marrow. And if you have that, you’re living in a state of grace.

February 2013
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