Friday, February 17, 2012

some random thoughts that mean something to me

The conversation over dinner tonight turned, randomly, to my parents' marriage.

Trying to remember how that happened now.

There was talk of relationships in general. My brother mentioned that while his girlfriend sometimes complains about how much he's like our dad, she secretly hopes that the two of them will turn out like my parents.

"Not a bad goal," I had to say, and my brother agreed.

I guess this is actually a belated Valentine's Day post, because my brother's comments touched on my own reflections on that day, and I think now that they were important enough to write down. After all, observing my parents was the reason that day was not as difficult as I expected.

It's not that I hate Valentine's Day. It's more that the day is so meaningless to me. This year, I did a little counting backwards, because I'm self-destructively analytical like that. So, the count:

One year ago, I was reeling a little bit (and feeling more than a little naive) from hearing the "I just don't have room for a girlfriend in my life right now" speech, which put an abrupt end to the first real connection I'd felt after a long and drawn-out breakup several months previously.

Two years ago, Sigh complained about feeling obligated to do something for Valentine's Day, went on a bit about society's expectations, and then bought me some cheap candy. It tasted kind of gross.

Three years ago, I was single. The same for every year before that.

This year Valentine's Day is the last thing in the world that matters in any practical way. I've got a world of other troubles on my mind, thanks very much.

Still, you can't really avoid thinking about it, at least a little bit. It's everywhere. I decided the best thing for myself would be to stay away from the internet for the day, and I mostly did that... but as my thoughts wandered, they fixed on that one year that I had somebody to share the day with, and how utterly ridiculous the day turned out to be. Here's the candy, given out of obligation - and not any obligation or pressure I had put forward, I might add; I stopped expecting gifts or gestures of any kind from Sigh quite awhile before that day - which I then felt obligated to appreciate and enjoy... and, really... is two years too much later to be irritated by the whole situation? A lot of people like to complain about Valentine's Day, and how it's a Hallmark holiday, just there to get us to spend money on cards and chocolate, and all this pressure to do something nice for the person you love... and, I'm sorry, but if it takes a sense of obligation to get you to do something nice for your significant other, then your relationship is already in trouble, if not failing altogether and only surviving out of habit. Mine certainly was. True, I'm not everybody... but I still think there's something messed up about needing a holiday to force you into a gesture of affection. If you're only doing it because it's expected, you have a problem. It might not manifest more seriously for some time yet, but you have a problem.

So, these are my thoughts, on my internet-free day, and at some point in the evening I'm sitting at the kitchen counter, inches away from the roses my dad brought home for my mom. They're still there tonight, and they're lovely. Not blood-red, and not sickly-pink, but this soft hue that's almost a peach color, which suits my mom more or less perfectly.

I looked at these roses, and I wasn't thinking about Valentine's Day. I was thinking about every other time over the past 30+ years that my dad has sent flowers to my mom. I thought about how he surprises her by making a celebration not just out of their wedding anniversary, but the anniversary of their engagement. I thought about him showing all of his kids the jewelry he'd gotten for her in secret, and asking us our advice on the most romantic way to give it to her.

I was a kid in Indiana again in my mind, looking out the living room window one morning and seeing my dad pull into the driveway. He'd been living in New Jersey without us for months because of a new job, only able to make it home every other weekend, but he'd just driven all night long to surprise my mom on their anniversary.

Mostly, I thought about how excited he gets over finding new ways and opportunities to make my mom feel special, all the time, after nearly 35 years of marriage. So I looked at those roses, and I thought that my mom and dad make Valentine's Day not seem cheap anymore.

I don't know that anything else needs to be said about that. Except, perhaps, that when you're not sure you believe in anything anymore, it's nice to find something to believe in so close to home.

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