Monday, February 9, 2015

Valentine's Day and Romance

Next week is Valentine’s Day. This is the occasion when lovers demonstrate the depth of their affection for each other. For some people, this is easy and truly enjoyable. For others it’s never easy.

Larry has never been romantic. Period. Several years ago, I wrote his ‘non-proposal’ into “Finding Love in Paradise,” my novella for our anthology Directions of Love. When I took the chapter to our critique group, everyone said, “That’s not romantic.”

I turned to Larry and said, “See.”

Actually, this should have prepared me.

However, while we were dating, he bought me lovely gifts for every occasion. I wore one bracelet until the finish wore off it. I still have the watch he gave me for high school graduation, and I’d still wear it except the band is fragile.

The first rude awakening came on my birthday following our wedding. He didn’t ignore it. He gave me a card. An anniversary card. So for our first anniversary a week later, he gave me nothing.

When I asked about all the great gifts I’d received before we married, I discovered that his mother had reminded him of the date well ahead of schedule and took him to the store. Then she suggested items I might like. My mother-in-love was a GREAT shopper and really understood my taste. Larry? Not so much.

For at least the first ten years of our marriage, I can count the number of actual gifts I received from him on one hand—and that includes the smoke alarm I got one year for Christmas…

I tried to explain to him how much it hurt when he ignored important occasions like my birthday and Christmas, but he couldn’t seem to understand.

I grew up very poor, and these special occasions were the only times when I actually received anything selected especially for me—like clothing that wasn’t hand-me-down. I never got much, and it certainly wasn’t expensive, but I felt loved.

After many years—and even more tears—I finally got through to him that gifts for special occasions really mattered.

One year on my birthday, he really went over the top. He picked me up from work at noon with a bouquet of roses. Then he drove me to the local airport for a flying lesson. Since I’d always wanted to learn to fly, this was a real E-ticket! He said I had a choice: I could either complete the lessons and get my license, or we could take a trip to Hawaii. Since the airport we would have flown into the year before had closed, I opted for Hawaii. But that one lesson was spectacular!

For many years, I became very blue right after Valentine’s Day. The lack of any acknowledgement from the most important person in my life made the depression even worse. It took me a long while to realize the reason this time of year was difficult harkened back to my childhood. My father died on February 16th, two days after Valentine’s Day. Once I realized the connection, I was better prepared, and now it’s no longer such a hard time of year.

Here’s the good news: if you’re lucky, even the unromantic can change. Over the years, Larry has gotten better about his gift giving and thoughtful gestures.

One little—and very special—tradition he has begun is making sure I have at least one small gift in my Christmas stocking. Sometimes they are silly things, other times, pretty things, still other times, they are special things. This last year, he gave me two gift certificates for pedicures. I never had my fingernails or toenails done until a few years ago. I discovered I LOVE a pedicure. I don’t go very often, but it feels so indulgent when I do. When I opened the envelope, I cried. He nailed it (no pun intended—although he’ll like it).

In recent years, we have begun to think about downsizing. We really don’t need more stuff. So we’ve begun giving ourselves gifts of things and events we can enjoy together. Our Christmas gifts this year were our annual passes to Disneyland. We both enjoy going with visiting friends, but also just hanging out there together. For us, it is the perfect gift.

One lovely and appreciated gesture began after Larry retired. He began leaving ahead of me to go surfing. I was still working, so I’d get up after he left for the beach. Before he left the house each morning, he began to bring me a cup of coffee and kiss me good-bye. Even after I retired, he continued doing this, and he still does it every day.

Some people might not consider this romantic, but I certainly do.

Larry isn’t inherently romantic, but he has figured out what to do so I feel cherished and loved. Because it doesn’t come easily to him, it’s all the more special.

What makes you feel loved? Is the special other in your life romantic? How do they express it.

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