I’m certainly doing my best to put the past in, well, the past, but it is Valentine’s Day and without a new special person I hope you’ll forgive me for looking back.
Neal, my late husband, and I had an epic love. The sort that one might believe was only possible in saccharine-filled romantic movies or novels. I know that I certainly did until it happened to me. I took one look at him in an airport bar in Pittsburgh (yeah, it was Pittsburgh), and knew he was the man I’d spend the rest of my life with. He saw me and felt the same jolt of recognition.
I’m not saying it was easy. He was, um, difficult–quirky, particular, snooty, and (gasp) a Republican. I’m a liberal Democrat. If you’ve read any of my blog posts you know that I’ve never been nominated for Miss Congeniality. He thought the F-word was incredibly vulgar. I think of it as the perfect adjective, and if I’m very lucky, a verb.
BUT, we were fearlessly intimate; expressed our devotion in soul baring ways that felt emphatically safe. It’s hard to imagine having anything less once you’ve experienced that freedom.
Fashion was his life and he had the closet to prove it. I loved a good sale and that drove him crazy. He thought anything on sale was a mistake so I had an entire closet full of mistakes. I struggled to figure out what I could give the man who had everything and Valentine’s Day was no exception. I decided early on that I’d have to do something unique.
I’ve never been described as artistic. The best I could do was to get a “B” in Mr. Camp’s ceramics class at Chaparral High School. And that was with the help of a very kind guy who would sit on the adjacent potter’s wheel and talk me through the required throwing of a pot (thanks, Joe). But for Neal, I was determined to channel my inner Picasso (or at least the guy who paints Velvet Elvis) and make him a Valentine. Each year I went to Michael’s and bought the necessary bling and fluff to mask my lack of artistic ability. Neal loved those cards. After he died I found them all bundled together and tucked away with his most important documents. That made my chest ache.
Here are two cards that I made for him:
Neal was a true romantic and it showed in every card he gave me. Shortly after his death I brought them out and kept them near me. I read them constantly to confirm why I couldn’t go on without him: I would never love or be loved to that degree again.
Here are two examples of the kind of things he wrote:
Today, five years later, I rarely look at those cards, but when I do it is with reflective hope that I will have that experience again. Is it greedy to want another big love?
I won’t be with anyone this February 14th. I’ve not met him yet, but I believe he’s out there. I look forward to creating new experiences and fresh memories of what I think will be a very different, but equally powerful love.
Here’s wishing you fearless intimacy with the one you love.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
“The minute I heard my first love story I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere, They’re in each other all along.” Rumi