Yesterday was Valentine’s Day here in the States so it seems fitting my thoughts turned to love. The Universe came through in spades, as it always does. I was searching for some old photos of my sons to put in frames, which meant digging through boxes of memorabilia. And this little gem showed up.
Stick with me, folks. I realize your interest in my memories will be limited. But I’ll soon get to the part universal to us all.
I smiled when I pulled it out of the box—a small ink sketch from my father. Hi there, Dad. How nice of you to “visit” on Valentine’s Day. My dad was a sucker for sentiment, you see. From flowers for no reason to heartfelt cards—always with a personal message—he took the cake. So when I unearthed this gem—a sketch it looks like he did while waiting for my mother to appear for cocktails before dinner—it made me smile. I don’t know why they took this trip, just that I didn’t go. I was young and stayed home with my sisters. I have to believe this may have been part of a midlife marital rejuvenation, a romantic trip to New Orleans to complement the disco dancing lessons they had been taking together. Hey, it was the 1970s. The Bee Gees were in full force, people.
It’s so like my father to note where they were—the 41st floor of the Marriott Hotel in a lounge called “Top of the Mart.” It looks like Mom and Dad visited when this place was still hip and happenin’—decades before Katrina decimated it. I’m so glad Dad memorialized the view. So like him not only to note the date and time, but also that it was dusk and “overlooking the Mississippi River.” The Huey Long Bridge looks prettier in this sketch than it ever has in reality. He romanticized it a bit, as he did most things. And it’s soooo like him to draw on whatever he had handy—this time, a table card from a riverboat they’d probably been on earlier in the day. Look at those 1970s prices.
He gave this little gift to my mom. It’s nice to know I had a father who—when given a few free minutes—decided to let his muses speak to him. And then gave my mother a memento to remember not only the trip but also what I hope was a really lovely evening for them.
This Valentine’s Day, a couple of friends were discussing how far they’d come since their divorces. Both are with men that they think will last a lifetime. Second chances are all the more precious, right? Funny—when I talk about how far I’ve come, it’s usually around learning to budget better and be a one-woman show in this thing we call life. The lifetime guy sounds really nice and sometimes I can imagine elements of him. No complete picture, though. I guess that’s ok. He may be as much wishful thinking as he is a truly scary concept for me. Oh, to be vulnerable again. Guess I’ll live on into that one.
But if I have to envision myself with someone, as we tend to do when unattached, I’d like to think it’s a man who has a romantic streak. A man who gives me little sentimental gifts. A man as unabashedly demonstrative of his love as my dad was. I’ve written before of holding out for a love like that.
So many married friends don’t celebrate what they call “the Hallmark holidays.” I get it. Commercialism doesn’t tend to do much for a woman’s libido. But a true gift—one created just because someone was thinking of you, doing something for you, giving of himself—man, that matters to me. I’m not cynical enough to give up on the concept. Maybe that’s why I surprised my friends when I dated Southern men as a modern woman. I like opened doors. I like expressions of affection. I like to be told when someone notices I look nice. I like surprises. Southern gentlemen have been well-trained in all of the above.
Bottom line: It’s my firm opinion we need more people who recognize the magic in life—and create it where it may not exist. People like my dad. I learned from a master.
My parents’ marriage was far from perfect. I often thought maybe my mother should have married the newspaper editor she talked about having dated when young. And maybe my father should have dated someone who celebrated his affections more. But they made it work, in the long run, with love.
For my friends who celebrate how far they’ve come in love—whether on a first chance, second chance, what-have-you—I’m happy. Honestly, I see few stellar long-term relationships. And the older I get, the more I realize love may come best in vignettes. Short scenes, played out over a long life, but enough of them strung together to make a difference. People who master those tend, I think, to master long-term love. And it doesn’t have to be all wine and roses. My friend’s face when she sees her husband outside shoveling the driveway is a beautiful testament to love. And the way he looks when he brings her coffee in the morning—well, it’s really sweet. He takes in the soft creases around her eyes, her bleary-eyed look, her less-than-sunny disposition—and he loves. He just loves. He doesn’t judge or linger on the external. You can tell he has bought into the whole package. I know many of you will say, “But of course. Isn’t that what a marriage or long-term relationship is?” Yes. But I can’t tell you how many I see that aren’t that. They’re facsimiles on the outside but they’ve lost their internal stuffing.
So maybe I will have love in vignettes in a for-the-rest-of-my-life love. Or maybe I will have vignettes strung together over a lifetime from multiple loves. I had kind of hoped for the former. If I allow myself to indulge in what I know my father would say, it would be this: “Peanut, love can come along at any time and in the most unexpected places. Just make sure it’s a mighty one before you leap. Nothing else is worth it.”
If you’re in my shoes—in a similar unattached situation–he’d say the same to you. He’d probably omit the “Peanut” part. But he’d mean it just the same.
And he’d say it with such conviction that, despite yourself, you’d believe him. See? Magic.
54 Comments Add yours
Kay… I love this piece!
Thank you! Glad it resonated!
Kristine, what a wonderful and thoughtful father and husband – I’m sure your mother treasured this gift of their trip! How lovely that your discovery of it became a way for you to examine relationships, love, marriage. May it all be magic, yet realise that the magic is often in those small moments of sketches, the gift of one’s time and thoughtfulness. As for good old-fashioned manners – a definite yes from me!
That magic is so elusive, isn’t it? You are very right. It’s in moments. Moments that no matter how hard we try to grasp and hold onto, end up slipping through our hands. I guess that makes them all the more magical.
Your dad sounds like a very thoughtful partner Kristine, I hope you find a love worth leaping for sometime soon 🙂
He was, Andrea. And yet, like all of us, so very flawed and human too. On the love end for me? Thanks for the well wishes. I love love but am planning on life being a grand adventure with or without it!
Aww. I love what your Dad would say, and his sketches. And yes, love in a marriage is more like a string of vignettes. Well said.
Thank you! I think love, in or out of a marriage, can be like a string of vignettes. Some people may never have that long-term relationship that lasts a lifetime but they have multiple deep loves that perhaps don’t.
Who am I to spoil your well-observed post Kristine? Love, proper and deep love, may be a valid wish for many. Me, I’m better off out of it, more serene, balanced and selfless. Apart from my soccer team that is. Although I’ve been away from the city for 44 years now, imperfect as they are and always will be, I am mad about them.
Wow. How many players on a team? One might say that if you were looking for love, you found it in spades😀. Not such a horrible thing to be mad about, Roy. And don’t completely write off love. You never know when it might tiptoe into your life and make an appearance. I’m sure your life will be full and happy without it. But just leave the door open a crack😉.
Most Canadian men are very genteel and romantic too, and I’m glad I have one of the good ones. He’s always making little (or big) things for me or shoveling out my car when the plow goes by and snows me in!
Now that’s a good man! And I know from your blog that he seems to always be doing things around the house for you. That matters. If your love language is acts of service, he is scoring high!
My fantasy in life has been to have a man like your dad, bringing me flowers and…I’ll spare you the rest LOL never happened. I hope you find your ever after love that will cherish your every step and if not vignettes are great!!!
You’re not alone in that sentiment! Women used to fall over themselves to be sweet to my dad and have long convos with him. They’d call him “hon” or “sweetie” and it drove my mom nuts. She’d roll her eyes:). I think most women want a thoughtful, strong man who is masculine enough to be gentle and demonstrative. You never know, Masha . . . remember, love comes out of nowhere when we least expect it:).
Feb 14 is the anniversary of our first date (in 1982) and we recreate it each year, going out for Mexican food. This year required some departure from the norm, of course, but we marked it well. — But we were discussing online with friends, the ways we say “I love you” without using those words, and the answers were myriad. There are so many ways to speak of love without actually speaking of love, to be romantic sans flowers, cards, and candy; one just has to be receptive to the meaning behind phrases like “I did the dishes” and “What would you like to do today?”
Kurt, you’re bringing to mind the love languages. Have you and your wife ever taken that test? I have so many couple friends who swear by it. I’m really glad that you both were still able to mark your anniversary. The little things that you talk about are the very things that I think make relationships last.
I’ve heard mention of love languages, but never heard of a test! How could that possibly be useful, when there are SO many ways to say it, in words, in actions, in fleeting glances, in the stray touch?
Google it. You should take it just for kicks and giggles. It will write you, percentage wise, on which love languages mean the most to you. And while it may sound like you’re trying to apply science to an art, it really does help when you’re in a relationship to understand which love language the other person speaks and thus what they most value. I’ve had so many couple friends who were having the same arguments or grievances again and again and after they both took the test and were able to better address the others needs, the friction went away. Pretty amazing.
I love this. Keep the memories coming!!
Thank you, Gabriela😊
Thank you for a lovely post! I love your Dad, he is such a romantic!
I have come round to thinking that multiple loves, is an interesting thought. We are not denied love, but get to have it more than once. Although the interludes, when they end, have hiccups, to say the least!
A long time back, I was 25 and I had that ‘What am I? Chopped Liver?’ kind of moment. And it was due to my brother being married and I was not. I had multiple short runs with boyfriends but, I kept getting the ‘Your intimidating.’, ‘You scare me.’ kind of thing from guys. I guess I’m just not the wilting wallflower type.
But I prefer to have good conversations, I don’t like the idea of having to compromise the ‘me’ for the ‘hey you wallflower chic’. So there you have it. I do love to get flowers, and hate to hear “But they will die.” Yes, they’ll die but I will appreciate them all the way to the end. Just as your found treasure, the vignettes were appreciated and loved. Put away to be kept safe for another day to be looked at and evoke a fondly remembered break.
I still give my Mom a Valentines’ card every year. I’ve not sent Gal V’tines in a long while. They have since been replaced by Text/Gifs for the wishes.
To all of us who have that special someone, I send you hugs. To all who wish for that special someone, I send you hugs. I ‘raise my glass to you across the room’ to you gals who find love on your terms. “Happy Valentines Day.”
Always love your thoughtful posts.
Oh, so much to unpack here, Nims! Here we go. Multiple loves can be such a blessing. And we are different people at different times in our lives. I’m not saying it isn’t great to grow old together–just that we might need to allow for other paths to happiness. If life is a learning lab, we may have multiple professors. On this, I think we agree. And your 25-year-old moment. Don’t get me started because men don’t have those. Women do. You know why? I know you do. Because our culture traditionally told women their worth was in mating up and producing offspring. But told men their worth was in achievement and money earned. And I’m with you on flowers. Of course they’ll die. But the point is the momentary and sometimes extravagant enjoyment of their beauty. I hear you! Thanks for sharing so honestly and thoughtfully. Always love a virtual visit from you!
Oh my! I do love “If life is a learning lab, we may have multiple professors.”… What did I learn from the last one, eh?
Thank you! You made my day, my week. 💜
Love this post! Such a beautiful memory to receive from your Dad and the message of wisdom is beautiful. We celebrate Valentine’s Day, we have date nights and we remember to honor one another often. Marriage and dating takes effort an ongoing commitment to grow ourselves and each other. You are beautiful light in the world Kristine and may love always find you! ✨✨💕💕
Oh, thank you, Karen:). A really kind wish! And yes, the honoring one another often part is so key. I hope you are having a good year and are surrounded by love . . .
What a great post! We are second time arounders… and it comes with its challenges believe me! We avoid the commercialised version of Valentines’s – I was never impressed by the market places version of meaningful! your dad seems to have managed it pretty well. There are a myriad of ways to embrace life – at least it appears that society is embracing that a bit more!
best wishes from UK!
I love second-time-arounders. They come with softened edges and wisdom around the eyes. And they treat each other with the care that comes from knowing what has been lost. Kudos to you!
Absolutely love this, particularly as I find myself in one of those “is this it, or not?” situations. At age 80, it’s a gift to be cherished every single day.
80 is a huge accomplishment in this crazy world! Congratulations. And “is this it, or not” sounds terrifying. It’s not what’s beyond that scares me–it’s what I have to go through to get there. Share your wisdom!
I am not a diehard fan of Jennifer Aniston’s, but I heard her talk about being single on a talk show once and it made me think: There’s more to this girl than good looks and rom-com movies. I dug up the quote after reading your post – here it is: “This whole ‘Poor lonely Jen’ thing, this idea that I’m so unlucky in love? I actually feel I’ve been unbelievably lucky in love. Just because at this stage my life doesn’t have the traditional framework to it – the husband and the two kids and the house in Connecticut – it’s mine. And if you don’t like the way it looks, then stop looking at it! Because I feel good. I don’t feel like I’m supposed to be any further along or somewhere that I’m not. I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”
Those are wise words. Thank you for sharing. I think I share her sentiment for the most part. I think we idealize lifetime marriages and perhaps we really are meant for more than one serious relationship in a lifetime. I do know that at this point in my life it would be nice to have that see-it-to-the-end kind of love. But I also know that I have built a life that works for me and I find joy in the moments. I guess that’s winning :-).
You have that great example in your heart and soul, Kay, thanks to your dad’s shine for your mom. Here’s to the real thing finding his way to your life’s path! My dear wife Karen and I were on Valentine’s Day amazingly recognizing how our journey now approaches 20 years together. So, yes, to your quest.
20 years is awesome, Mark! And I can always tell from your blog how very much you love Karen. Always gives me hope that there are nice guys out there!
Love, like just about everything, can be complicated. But it’s true that you never know when the right person will come along. I guess it’s partly a question of feeling very comfortable with someone.
Yes! Friendship is a great basis for love if the chemistry ends up being there.
Until he died at 73, my Dad always sent me a Valentine’s card. He tried to stop when I was 34 and had my son, but I told him off good and proper, so he kept doing it. Such a cute thing to do!
As per my last blog post, I avoid Valentine’s Day now in favour of protesting violence or celebrating my Gal Pals, but yes, the quest for a good love continues to motivate me to online date or meet people through friends… I will not give up hope! But at nearly 55 now, I doubt I’ll get a 50-yr connection happening haha x G
I love that your dad did that😀. And that you made him keep going! Nothing beats your gal pals, that’s for sure. And I’m glad that you’re not giving up hope. It’s not that we can’t all lead full lives without a lifetime love but I think a really great love adds so much to a life. You may not make it to a 50 year anniversary but you could still have some righteous anniversary parties 😉🎉💗🍾.
Lol, very true!
My life is full & wonderful- a good partner would only be the icing on a fabulous cake- but icing is so good! 😊
I am with you all the way, Kristine. I look at my sisters’ marriages and think – they have figured it out. The middle sister had to work hard and put up with a lot of shit to get where they are today but they have found their rhythm. The younger sister and her husband have exactly what I would want, were I to be in that place again. A mutual respect, romance, space, concessions, agreements and they never, ever, no matter what, forget they are a couple first; parents, second. Good thing, too, as their baby just turned 18. They won’t look at each other like so many do after 25+ years and say: Who are you? Am I supposed to keep on living with you? Not for nothing they call it now the 27-year itch. Too often couples forget that they are just that…
Oh man. Your youngest sister’s relationship sounds like the real thing alright. To remember what you have in a person and not let “tired eyes” become your lens–that’s a gift. And the sexiest thing alive in a man, don’t you think?
Yes, it is. Is it perfect? No. Is it the next best thing? Absolutely.
I so think!
Thanks Kristine. I like the idea of love in vignettes or bits and pieces. In other words, lets notice and celebrate love where, when, and with whom we can, no matter how brief. Strung together, we get a life sprinkled with love, even if no LT partner. It’s a good story line to tell myself while I yearn for a partner!
I’m glad you liked it, Brad:). And strung together may actually be a beautiful path. I know people who have done that who have had a happier life, overall, than those who have had one long relationship. No perfect way!
I liked the stringing together approach for my 30s and 40s. but now wish I had put more effort into finding a LT partner. I’m tired of being single! Not where I want to be at 62.
I get it. Really, I do. I’ve been so busy trying to keep a “normal” life for my kids for so many years and I’ve had to work really hard (long hours) to do so. And now I’m coming up for air and realizing how important a lifetime love is to me. No guarantees, right? But I think if you’re honest about wanting it and living your best life anyway, it’ll come if it’s meant for you. I do know I don’t want someone who plays games or is coy. Just want someone who knows they’re for me and shows it. I think that’s what we all want . . .
Thanks Kristine. We have similar relationship aspirations. May it happen soon!
I e been married 52.yrs in May. It always hasn’t been great. More like your ‘vignettes’. There are things missing but it’s worked over the long haul. Interestingly, while commenting, my daughter called from West coast and I’m trying to give her relationship advice. She’s only at the boyfriend level with this guy but she’s in her early 40s and wants things to start working out better. I’m not the best counselor and probably should refer her to you 😉
Keep up the good writing, and as I tell her, ‘follow your heart but listen to your head’. Does that make any sense? G’night!
Oh, spoken like a true dad! She’s lucky to have you. I hope things work out the way they’re supposed to for her. Wow–52 years is an accomplishment! Something to be proud of–and I would expect bumps on a road that long . . . but sounds like you found smooth patches more often than not.
I like to call them, ‘vignettes’😉(starting today)
That’s very artistic of you, monsieur:). They’re not smooth patches. They’re vignettes!
Just thinking about this. This is my 54th Valentine’s Day. I have a quiet peace around my life. My husband, my puppy, and my friends. Along with my interests in life, I appreciate what surrounds me. I see that you value all that comes your way.
Husband, puppy and friends sounds like a lovely mix! Especially with your appreciation for what surrounds you:). I do try to value what comes my way–and that’s a life lesson I learned by watching my dad. He focused on what we had to be grateful for–and vocalized it often.