I woke up this morning and despite the throbbing headache that threatened to ruin my day, I knew I had to haul myself to the store. There was no way out of it. The fridge was bare, but more importantly my daughter was out of her medicines, so there was no way out of it. I trudged into the big, noisy store that I am certain is evil. The only reason I use it, I’m sorry to say, is because my daughter’s medicine, one of them anyway, is about $40 cheaper here than anywhere else. At still almost $200 a bottle for the one, I have little choice in the matter. Anyway, I drop off the prescriptions and am told it will be at least two hours. I resign myself to the fact that I may as well get groceries while I’m here.
The store is packed. Is today National Wear Your Pajamas and Smack and Scream at Your Children in Public Day or something? I am getting more and more stressed as I wander the aisles. My head is throbbing. I can’t find anything. Okay, a couple of items to go and I can get out of this madhouse. At least I can escape to my car and wait for the prescriptions.
That’s when it happened. I turn down the wrong aisle and am assaulted. I am slapped across the face by a bright and shiny red, heart shaped box. I stop short, jaw dropping and I realize there is an entire aisle of them and they have brought their friends and relatives of all shapes and sizes. I shrink from the glowing, red aisle. Then I do something embarrassing. I start to cry. Damned Valentines. I knew they were coming. Why did they take me by surprise? Every year I proceed with caution as the Christmas decorations get put away because I know the Valentines are coming. As you can tell, I’m not a fan. Now here I am, crying in the middle of the jam packed, screaming store. Maybe no one would even notice.
I don’t hate the holiday for the dumb, shallow reason that seems obvious. Valentines Day never meant a whole lot anyway. It was fun when I was a kid because of the parties at school, but once I grew up it lost its charm. There was the obligatory mushy card and candy and maybe even one of those bouquets of carnations you get at the grocery store from my husband every year for the fifteen years we were married, which I reciprocated with equally mushy cards and candy, and heck, maybe some candles on the table at dinnertime, but it wasn’t a day to get all excited about. I’d be a much bigger fan of someone bringing me a card for no reason other than that they were thinking of me, than a card bought because every endcap in every store was yelling at them to do so. Just my opinion.
So why did the sight of Valentines candy and decorations smack me in the face today and turn me into a blubbering idiot? My father died on Valentines Day. It was 2005. People said it would get easier in time, but it really hasn’t. I miss him every day. Maybe if the anniversary didn’t fall on a flamboyant holiday it would be easier. For a solid month I can’t go in store or turn on the radio without the constant reminder. I don’t see hearts and roses, I see a frail man lying in a hospital bed fighting for breath. A man who, despite his faults and shortcomings was as important to me as air and water.
Every year I steel myself for the appearance of the bright red boxes, but somehow this year I hadn’t. They took me by surprise today and then mocked me while I cried.
Head down, I slowly continued down the aisles, picking up what I needed and longing to feel a rough, calloused hand in mine. A hand I wish I could hold just one more time.