Valentine’s day is a stupid, made-up holiday.
It is! But I guess so are a lot of quasi-holidays and other silly things we celebrate. I’m pretty sure Facebook made up National Sibling Day but I love posting pictures of my sister on that day. So I was never against Valentine’s Day, exactly. I just didn’t make a big deal out of it.
But Shawn knew better. He knew that if he forgot to recognize his love for me on this day, even though I thought the holiday was stupid, it might hurt my feelings. So every year, he made sure to get me something nice. The first year, when we had been dating only a few months (and we were living in Japan, where Valentine’s Day isn’t really a thing) I thought I’d buy him something useful. He liked to have these fancy coffee drinks, so I got him a milk frother.
He got me a pair of “love plants” that would eventually grow to decorate my apartment. He also gave me supplies so we could paint them together and keep the pots with us forever (which we did!) On his pot he wrote, “M&S forever.”
Again, I got him a milk frother.
He would tease me about this throughout our relationship, but it never stopped him from continuing to do some sort of romantic gesture every Valentine’s Day.
This may be why I’m dreading this upcoming holiday. Yes, I’ve already lived through one Valentine’s Day without Shawn, but that one was so recently after his death that I was so deep in grief and shock that a made-up holiday didn’t really matter. Shawn was gone, and it hurt the same on February 13th and 15th as it did on Valentine’s Day. I don’t really remember that day last year at all.
But now it all seems so ominous. Because what is Valentine’s Day without the man who thought the sun and the moon revolved around me? It’s just another stupid made-up holiday.
I was looking over old blog posts the other day, and I re-read one of my favorites. This part, especially, got me:
Two days before he died, Shawn was up at night, sick from chemotherapy and the cancer that was racking his body. It was about 2 am, and I stumbled out of bed in just a tank top and underwear, rushing to get him a towel to help him wash his face. He could barely walk, but he had managed to get himself to the bathroom without my help, and I was just standing there, trying to figure out what was the best thing for him.
“What can I do for you?” I asked him.
“Nothing,” he said.
He paused. Then he turned and looked at me and said, “you look hot, by the way.”
I think I laughed, because it was so classically Shawn to say something like that at such a dire moment. In the midst of his pain, he thought I was beautiful, and he wanted me to know it.
The post made me realize, at least a bit, why thinking about Valentine’s Day has been so hard for me. Yes, it’s a made-up holiday, but it’s also a time when Shawn would make sure to tell me how much he cherished me. Sure, he told me basically every day, but he knew he had to be extra special about it on Valentine’s Day.
So it’s not that Valentine’s Day makes me feel any more lonely that usual. It’s that it reminds me of him. It reminds me that I’m facing the world alone, without him.
This post was supposed to end there, but this morning, as I was getting ready, my daughter came into the bathroom. I was getting ready for work, and she studied me from the doorway.
“You look pretty today, mama,” she said.
“Thanks, baby,” I said, and I looked at her. Her eyes crinkled up at the sides as she smiled at me.
They looked just like Shawn’s.