Over 31 years ago, I fell in love with a decidedly, according to popular media at least, unromantic man. No rose petals leading a path to a candle-lit dinner. No charismatic charms displayed through gifts perfectly chosen, and sometimes on birthdays, holidays, even Valentine’s days, no gifts at all.
For one thing, he doesn’t like roses, except for native wild roses, although he’s learned not to insult the roses I’ve planted in our yard. For another, he doesn’t think in terms of societal gestures of romance. But true love? Here’s some of what it’s looked like for us over the years:
- As soon as he returns from a nine-hour day of work, plus commuting 45 minutes each way after waking up at 5:30 a.m. he puts on his coveralls and rushes outside in the snow to shovel a path to the cars, including clearing my car, so no one in our family slips.
- Sleeping on lumpy hospital cots beside me after surgeries, bringing me large cups of hold water to sip during hours of chemotherapy in between reading aloud to me bizarre bits of the paper, and taking off for the one pharmacy open at 2 a.m. once to get me drugs to ease my pain.
- Changing thousands of diapers without prompting. Hauling babies and all their bags of diapers, juice, toys, bibs, extra clothes and more. Rocking those babies in the middle of the night after I woke him up, even if I had to kick him a little because he sleeps through anything. Waking up early to make those creepy-crawling kids of ours pancakes while he downs an extra cup of coffee and lets me sleep in.
- Never once even hinting that I need to not be a writer despite the hours it sometimes took away from him having some free time for himself between work, children, the farm, and helping his family.
- Accepting my far louder family with curiosity and appreciation even if we broke out into show tunes at the drop of a hat and considered a great family gathering to include six kinds of dessert and karaoke.
- Holding my father’s arm in the last moments of his life while telling my dad how good it was to see him (after flying out with me on little notice, then driving hours in the snow on little sleep).
- Saying “Oh, no!” when I tell him I think I’m getting a cold, and then expressing genuine empathy.
- Doing the laundry. All the laundry for the most part. Including the laundry for three kids, one of whom changed her outfit every two hours. For over 30 years.
- Laughing so hard at the parts we love in our favorite movies, reminding me of the first time I heard him laugh in abandon when we went to a park late at night and swung on the swings very high.
- Processing thousands of nuances of interpersonal mishaps with me to help me find the way forward with love and respect for all.
- Cleaning the dog vomit on the floor, and much of the kid stomach flu evidence over the years because I can’t do it without throwing up.
- Lying awake late at night with me, scheming about events we’d organize, projects we’d launch, and communities we’d support, and then, in the daytime, working with me to make it all happen.
- While not caring if his shirt is fraying at the edges, letting me parade before him in multiple outfits so he can advise me on what best fits the occasion and makes me look best.
- Simply not caring if I gained or lost 20 pounds.
- Not objecting when I scooted my freezing toes under his warm feet in bed on a winter’s night.
- Occasionally writing me a love letter so beautiful that I no longer care that he forgot a birthday, and in recent years, actually remembering birthdays, holidays and Valentine’s day, not because they matter to him but because it matters to me.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all of us no matter who we love and how we love, and may we find the romance in folded laundry, a hot bowl of soup, and someone who truly gets who we are.