So Wednesday is Valentines Day, and this is not a rant about romance or relationships or any of the usual vitriol about corporate reasons to spend money.
Well, in part it might end up that way. But for the few years after my father died I made sure I sent flowers to my mother. My father was a loving guy, and there was a cute look and grin he always had when he would tease my mom about this or that. It’s that look that says I love you, life is good, laugh with me and everything will be ok. It was usually after something broke, or more accurately, he broke something.
My mother always said that their first home, in a village on Guam called Mongmong, was her favorite. Their first son, daughter, their first car – a lot of family firsts were left in that house when the rest of the kids came along and made it necessary to move.
Few people in the world even live life as long as my parents were married – for nearly 60 years. And like a lot of kids, I felt like I both added and subtracted from their happiness at times. Bad grades and slight delinquency aside, I think I tried later in life to be more additive in that respect.
They were married for more years than I have lived even now and I know I’ve never made any commitment nearly as important or as lengthy as their marriage. For that matter I think they were married for longer than the popular notion that Valentine’s Day represented an obligation to spend money on restaurants, candy and expensive jewelry.
In the classic notion that money doesn’t equal happiness, my parents would always exclaim their higher form of wealth. As long as happiness, love and more often than not – FOOD – were in good supply, everything else was superfluous and wasted. Which was often why I was a total hero when bringing home fresh fish, caught that morning with my father. At least I thought so.
So when my mother finally passed, it was harder than ever to understand – given the national pastime that Valentines Day represents these days – that someone had by either ignorance, misplaced or by greed and malice, stolen my mother’s wedding ring. No one, not the nursing home staff, the ambulance crew, the hospital staff or the mortuary employees could find it.
I get that it is a small object, but the relationship it represented was more valuable than it’s setting or jewels. But our family did not pursue the matter further than official channels allowed at the time. It was more important to meet with cousins, talk about old times, and imagine them together again somewhere better than a place that lets symbols of devotion fall through cracks.
I’m not entirely sure I’m as forgiving as I should be on any given day – cut me off in traffic on a Monday morning and you might catch a clever adjective or two and some sworn penalty when I come to power. But being incredibly devout people, my parents impressed me more with their virtues as I got older. If only those virtues were genetic traits passed on to future generations. It’s that lack of forgiveness that would have me believe I am adopted were it not for the resemblance being rock solid.
I made a joke after the funeral to try an ease what I felt were still some tense nerves regarding the missing ring. My Dad had a pretty abrupt sense of humor, like a lot of his family did. In passing through the pearly gates, my father welcomes my mother with that grin, but then things get a little serious. His expression droops into a familiar disapproving stare usually made when one of the children has broken something expensive.
He stops her, and says “Hey,” pausing for effect, “Where’s your ring?” And before she can explain the whole folly of dozens charged with her care on earth, he chuckles, smiles and maybe even winks and says “Did you leave it at your boyfriend’s?” At which point they would laugh, forget about it, and get on with the rest of forever.
So this Valentine’s Day, there are – I am sure – any number of reasons to spend silly money on toys, trinkets, vacations, and all manner of ways to validate to the world how much your current relationship means to you. But I guess I just like flowers.
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