there’s a rose you gave to me
and a photograph that’s torn in half
and all that’s left is me.
Despite being together for over three years now and being married for two-and-a-half, Clancy and I spent our first Valentine’s Day together tonight.
Last VD she was on an out-of-town rotation and I spent it with an ex-girlfriend whose husband was out of town on business (what’s the ex-girlfriend doing in Deseret? long story). The year before that I was in Colosse I spent it with my ex-girlfriend Julie, who was still smarting from her breakup with Tony and could use the company. The year before that (when Clancy and I were together, but before we were married) it was spent with… someone else. A lonely VD for her, a dark and haunted one for me.
Interestingly, the last time I haven’t had a date (platonic or otherwise) for VD was 1995, I think. Dumb luck, usually. Even when my then-girlfriend made other plans for Valentines Day about five years back, I stumbled onto a date with someone else. Clancy, on the other hand, hasn’t had one in some time. Dumb luck there, too, particularly with one of us always being somewhere else.
So anyway, despite the importance of it being our first VD together, it had additional importance for her. There are certain demons within us all and it’s on and around VD that Clancy’s surface. This was the first time in a long time that they were not in the picture. And instead she had me. And flowers.
One of the things I appreciate most about Clancy is how direct she is. Julie used to dance around what she wanted, abstractly mentioning something about it six weeks prior and then be sent into shock and doubt if I didn’t remember it when the time came. Julie would get mad at me if I forgot some important date… Clancy just reminds me of what the date is. Not trying to pick on Julie here, but in the Julie-to-Clancy spectrum, more women seem to fall closer to Julie’s tendencies.
So yesterday when she was on call and we were talking about what to do for VD, she mentioned that she was working on getting a gift together for me. I told her that I didn’t exactly have anything in that regard. She pointed out that I can’t go wrong with flowers. I got flowers. She’s happy. I’m happy that she’s happy. It’s amazing what can happen when one party in a relationship (usually, though by no means always, the female party) lets go of the notion that their significant other shouldn’t have to have everything spelled out for them.
But this was the first time that she had ever gotten flowers on the holiday. The first time she’d ever gotten a dozen roses ever. Many years ago she got flowers on VD from her mother when she was released from a hospital. She got a couple flowers from a boy who liked her way too much a few years back on a day that wasn’t VD. But this was a break for her. She got a dozen roses on Valentine’s Day from her significant other. The right boy at the right time with the right gift. Just the way things are supposed to be… but never seem to have been.
And it marked a break for me. Julie didn’t just want flowers. She wanted bigger and better flowers than she got last time. She didn’t say this directly because she didn’t say much of anything directly, but the disappointed tone of her voice spoke volumes even as she spoke softly. Towards the end I felt like I was walking on eggshells just trying to get her a gift.
Then there was her successor… the one that found another date when we were together and then a couple years later stood up a date with her then-boyfriend to pay me a visit. I gave her flowers three times, each one of them unknowingly on the onset of a disaster. The first time she decided to stick with her boyfriend for another month. The second time it prompted her to indicate to me that she was considering leaving. The third time was in Fall of 2001 and the tectonic plates between us were already shifting. As the plates continued the shift the morning she got the flowers, two towers in Washington DC were falling and the Pentagon was on fire. My best friend’s father wrote him after not speaking to him for five years. It was the kind of times that we reached out to the ones we love. She reached out to someone else and our relationship ended.
I don’t know if it was a conscious decision, but after 9/11/2001 and the ensuing events I stopped giving anyone flowers. Maybe I thought it was bad luck or maybe I was getting lazy. Thankfully, Clancy told me what she wanted. It helped her get over her demons, and gave me another opportunity to step over mine.
Tonight she emailed her parents to commemorate the first Valentine’s Day without the taint. And I write this post, thrilled at being able to be a part of that for her. And relieved that there isn’t another shoe to drop.