Valentine’s Day 2009 was our first Valentine’s Day together. I had a long weekend so I planned to drive from Maine to Albany. I decided I was going to get him a Brooks Brother’s gift card so he could buy a bow tie. I got out of work at 4:30 in Bar Harbor, ME and I was worried that the closest store in Freeport, ME (which was about three hours into my drive) was going to be closed by the time I was driving through. Luckily I made it there with ten minutes to spare. Bryon cooked me chicken parm for dinner and even had candles in his small apartment. I gave him the Brooks Brothers gift card and a box of chocolates made by my friend who has a confectionary business. (Affectionate Confections) He gave me a box of commercial chocolates and an EZ pass because he couldn’t stand that I actually stopped at the toll plazas and paid cash to the attendant. I won’t go into the details of the rest of the evening. I will leave that to your imagination.
(I did find that Brooks Brother’s gift card still in the box about a month after Bryon died. No idea if he used it or if the card is even good. It is so old it doesn’t have a number on the back to call for a balance.)
Valentine’s Day 2016 was our last Valentine’s Day. We started it on the cruise ship, Freedom of the Seas. We were back in Port Canaveral after a seven night cruise to the Bahamas, U.S.V.I, and Saint Maarten. It was debarkation day and we were concerned about the logistics of getting off the ship and getting to the airport and ultimately getting home. We had long ago blown off the idea of Valentine’s Day. Bryon would rather send me flowers or take me out to a fancy dinner on any other night of the year. That morning Bryon didn’t say anything about it being Valentine’s Day to me. Maddy woke up and he said “Maddy, will you be my Valentine?” My heart melted.
To those who are in love, whether you are in the early stages of your relationship or have been married for decades, please don’t take each other for granted. Listen to each other. Really look at each other. Spent time together, just the two of you. Show interest in each other’s interests and lives. Don’t leave anything unsaid. Take time to make sure you hug and feel the embrace.
Don’t live each day like it’s your last as that is just too exhausting. But remember that things can change instantly, without warning. Bryon’s illness happened suddenly and unexpectedly. I don’t remember a lot of our “lasts” because I didn’t realize that those lasts were going to be our lasts. While I am thankful I had those last five months with him, there were so many things we never got a chance to say. So many things we didn’t get to do.
To those who are single, please don’t be discouraged. I had given up on love when Bryon entered my life. Please make sure you keep your heart open and never lose the faith. Don’t settle but don’t be so stuck on what your ideal partner is that you miss out on something wonderful. Sometimes love surprises us. And if you are single and are happy, that is great and keep doing things that make you happy.
If Bryon were still living, we would not have had anything spectacular planned today but I still feel the emptiness. But I am thankful I got my eight years with him. I am thankful that he loved me. He touched a lot of people lives and he chose me to be by his side. I am a better person now because of him. Because of him, I will live my life differently and love those around more.
I will continue on my journey on trying to love myself and being the best mother I can be to my daughter. I will cherish the non-romantic love in my life from my family and friends. I will cherish all the meals I share with friends. All of the conversations. These people were there for me in the darkest hours and still continue to stay by my side. I will be ready to be there for them during their darkest hours, though I hope their darkest hours are bright compared to mine. I will continue to try to keep my heart open to new friendships and work at not keeping myself closed off from others.
I do not know what future Valentine’s Days will bring. I hope someday that I will get a chance to love and be loved again. Maybe, when I am ready for it, I will have another special man in my life who won’t be scared off by all my baggage. But until that day arrives, should it arrive, I will be spending this Valentine’s Day at a rocking party with the other love of my life and the twelve other two-year-olds in her daycare class. And there is nowhere else I would rather be.