Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Last Valentine

My parents George and Bebe were born and raised in Washington DC, but this isn't really a DC story so much as a love story that happened here. As far as I know my mom and dad have always tried to celebrate Valentine's Day. Maybe it was because they had a rare sort of love- the kind that lasts. They met while still in high school at Western and weathered deep family disapproval over their multicultural backgrounds. My grandfather forbid all his local business friends to hire his son in an effort to thwart the young couple's chances long enough for my father to come to his senses- which he never did. He stayed in love with my mother for over seventy years. And it's not too dramatic to say that only death could part them.

That's a lot of Valentines.

Though my father was a warm and funny man, he rarely showed his romantic side, but I have written proof. (Get the Kleenx now) Here is a note my father wrote sometime in the last 10 years when he was in his eighties:

"Dearest One,
Why can I not say the words I can write. At least once a day and sometimes more often I think how much I love you, not only as a wife, but as a friend and companion....My love is 60 times stronger as each year has gone by."

Or this one written when they had been married over 65 years:

"As we sit night after night watching T.V. I often think what a beautiful woman you are not only in body, but also your mind."

Most of these he signed "George", but I liked the one that ends "Love, Your What's His Face- GPC"

My father died shipboard one year ago today, but he had thought ahead and bought my mother a valentine before they went on what would be their last cruise. We found it unsigned. It was one of many such trips that my father worked hard for all his life. On one of their first cruises, my mother spotted a clause in the contract that stated a child could stay in their room for free. I was the baby of the family, but in my early 20s I wasn't up for bunking in with the parental units. My older sister, however, had raised a family and divorced by then and was happy to go. (She was here after known as "the child.") On their last cruise, my father tripped on the stairs and that was pretty much that for him. My mother blames the sneakers he was wearing. We still find it easier to pretend he isn't really gone, but he is.

My dad loved many things- his family first. He loved dogs, and cars and Home Depot. He loved to travel especially to Greece. He loved the beach. He loved chocolate, Tootsie Rolls, half smokes and Greek chicken with macaroni. He loved to tell stories. He sang and sneezed loudly and could make a great egg sandwich. He loved practical jokes, and getting a bargain. He loved to make people laugh.
And now I know he loved my mother with a fierce and steadfast heart that continues to inspire me even after he is gone. That unsigned valentine speaks volumes now.


  1. What a guy, your dad. I know you all miss him much.


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