（Pack Creek Ranch, San Juan County, Utah
The beginning of February 2020
A weather inversion over the valley – dense fog for days, frosting all the trees and bushes like a fairyland park.）
Here’s a conversation over lunch this past week at the Moab Diner between me and a friend – a man in his early sixties.
It’s a true story – as accurate as I can remember it.
RLF – “You look grumpy – what’s troubling you?”
“Just came from City Market and got run over by BIG LOVE.”
“What? You mean you met someone who made your heart throb?”
“No, no – I wandered into the Seasonal Specials aisle, and it was
jammed to the walls with Valentine’s Day stuff – candy hearts,
chocolate, greeting cards, and all that lacy gold whoopee-do crap
shouting Show Some Love – Buy this!
And in the floral department there were red roses and pots of red tulips.
And it’s not even February yet.”
“I don’t understand the problem – I thought you were happily married. A lifetime love affair ripe for Valentine’s Day action.”
He smiled and laughed. . .
“That’s true – yes I am – 35 years now – 4 kids, grandkids, house,
job, cars, boat, dogs, a shop full of tools – everything a man needs to
be happily married.”
He laughed again.
“So what’s the problem?”
“My wife is a fiercely sentimental romantic – A love Jihadist. And I’m just not.
she expects big things for Valentine’s Day, and I’m running out of gas
trying to produce the love goods on February 14. Drives me crazy.”
“Has this always been a problem for you?”
“Well I did pretty well in the early days of courtship and romance –
flowers and fancy boxes of chocolate – and even long letters telling her
how wonderful she is and expressing my undying affection. I was young.
Lotta work, but I did it.”
“And so . . .”
“Well, as time went on and we settled into raising kids and building a
house and a business – marriage settled into a routine. And slowly but
surely I ran out of things to say and do. You know how it is. Romance is
history – reality happens.
One year I did something really stupid –
as a joke – and just gave her a card that said “See previous letters.”
And I gave her a gift certificate for her to buy whatever she wanted for
Valentine’s Day. I thought she’d laugh.
Ha. Oh no, not funny. She
cried her eyes out, called me names, and gave me a look that said this
had better never ever happen again.”
Now I laughed.
“Not funny – she meant it. And I really love her and don’t want to
make trouble, so every year since, I’ve done the Valentine’s Deed, and
gave her what she wanted, the full boat, and it seemed to satisfy her.
But it’s a pain in the butt for me.”
“But if it works, it’s not weird. It’s a small accommodation to make.
I mean if she knows you are not a sentimental romantic but you please
her by doing something you’d rather not do, that’s a gesture of love in
itself, don’t you think?”
“Maybe. But it feels like she’s saying she wants what she wants when
she wants it so she knows she’s loved. She doesn’t notice all the little
caring things I do all the time to confirm my love and affection for
her. It’s gotta be flowers and candy for her or else it doesn’t count.
And in recent years she’s started feeling that way about birthdays and
our anniversary. She feels loved – and I feel bullied.”
“And so these have become times of frustration and anger for you. She
takes you for granted. The grooves are getting deeper and deeper.”
“You got it. I’m pissed off. I begin to understand why guys like me have affairs.”
“Yeah, well there’s that. Is that what you’re thinking of doing?”
“Well, for one thing, she’s the best friend I’ve ever had – she’s
always had my back – never let me down – done so much for me that tells
me how much she not only likes me and trusts me, but loves me. And we’ve
got great kids because she’s a great mom and makes our family safe and
secure. My wife’s the best.
An affair? No damn way! I love that woman with all my heart and would never, ever betray her. Never!”
“OK – Let me change the subject a little bit. Is there anything you would like for your wife to do for you for Valentine’s Day?”
Silence – a long thoughtful silence.
“Well . . . Valentine’s Day has always been a time when I was
supposed to give her something – it was my job, in a way. I’ve never
expected anything from her.”
“What if she knew how you feel? What if she had overheard this conversation?
What do you think she’d think or do?”
Silence again . . . with tears welling up in the man’s eyes.
“I couldn’t possibly talk to her about it or asked her for anything.
She’s never written me a letter telling me why she loved and cared about me.
given me a present. I guess she never thought that Valentine’s Day
meant anything to me – just her. But sometimes . . . I wish . . . for
something . . .”
Silence . . .
Then our hamburgers and fries came and there was no more talk of love.
I try to mind my own business.
But sometimes I don’t manage to do it.. . . .
I know his wife – wonderful woman – but she’s blind sometimes to the obvious, like
all the rest of us in long-lasting relationships. We do take each other for granted.
But there are truths that need to be told.
So I printed my account of this conversation, put it in an envelope, and mailed it to the man’s wife. In time for her to think about it before Valentine’s Day.
I added a footnote:
P.S. He doesn’t really like
chocolate. He likes homemade pecan pie and peanut brittle, but you know
that. And, by the way – nobody has ever, ever given him flowers.