He does this every year.
And I think that’s the very first secret of being an awesome-sauce Valentine.
Every year my husband, my girls’ daddy, regular-working-guy, Angelo, makes Valentine’s Day special.
He’s never bought me a Lexus with a giant bow on top or booked a Mediterranean cruise. He buys grocery store flowers and some candy and alternately a romantic/cheesy/silly/corny/sentimental card. He writes in the card and licks the sticky edge and seals it.
He asks me, while I’m yawning in bed, hair sticking up every which way, a sleepy smile on my face, this question, “Do you want to open your card now or later?”
Every year I answer the same, “It doesn’t matter to me…let’s wait until we go out.”
Sometimes we’ll go out, maybe not on Valentine’s Day because he’s busy delivering packages and 1-800-Flowers all around town and is, predictably, bushed by the time he arrives home, sometime after 7 p.m.
That’s the second secret of being an awesome-sauce Valentine.
Twenty-three years ago, give or take a few weeks, he took my hands as we shivered outside of a fraternity party and said, “I want to be committed to you. And, you need to know, when I decide to be committed to something, I’m in for the long haul.”
What a haul indeed.
Twenty-two years ago, he arrived in my mortgage office cubicle with a giant balloon stuffed with a teddy bear and confetti (remember those in the 90s?). The bear was holding a ring.
He proposed right there and made the office ladies a bit jealous and they were all crying.
But he has never waivered in that commitment. He’s worked three jobs at once so that I could stay home and raise our kids. He’s gone without all kinds of everything – concert tickets, sports gear, weekends with the boys, new gadgets, that pair of jeans on clearance, even given away the Rottweiler that we couldn’t afford to keep, just because he made a commitment and was duty-bound to the long haul.
He’s seen me through miscarriages and new babies, breakdowns and weight-gain; we’ve battled through finances and the lack of them. He hopped down the hall on his unbroken leg to fill bags of ice to soothe my pain—in the middle of the night.
He lay in a hospital bed and trusted that I would be all right. Somewhere in that huge medical complex, a surgeon’s hands were in my chest, laying back muscle and fascia, rearranging lung, stitching a torn diaphragm, tying up a spleen, stapling, stitching. He was helpless to change the outcome of that night, even though I credit him with saving our lives by avoiding a t-bone hit from that on-coming car. But he never wavered in his commitment, not once.
This is the third quality of an awesome-sauce Valentine. He never expects anything in return. He expects the future men in our girls’ lives to be awesome-sauce Valentines, too.
So every year, like clockwork, he goes to the neighborhood grocery store and buys flowers, candy and a card for his daughters. I help in his secret plan and arrange the flowers in vases and he signs the cards, licks the sticky strip and seals them.
Every year, our girls awaken to Valentine treats. It’s become so common that they know this is the standard. But it isn’t the gifts that matter. It’s the commitment and character of a man who had no idea how to be a husband and father twenty-three years ago, who risked his financial security, his career plans, his life as he knew it, to launch into a lifetime of loving.
They’ve watched, they’re watching (and so are our boys) and they are learning how to be awesome-sauce, too. Sure, the flowers die and the cards are cheesy and the candy gets eaten, wrappings tossed. But the impression is permanent. Like a love note scrawled in wet cement, his actions, his year-after-year commitment has pressed into their hearts and left etchings, instructions, on how to love well.
Our daughters will know awesome-sauce when they see it and they will not settle for less. Our boys will be awesome-sauce because they know it works, it fills and it lasts.