a love story for Valentine’s Day

Sampling #WorstValentinesDay tweets like chocolates in a heart-shaped box, I realized the following:

  • For every marriage proposal, someone gets dumped.
  • For every candlelit meal between lovers, there is a sorry sap who gets drunk alone after being stood up.
  • I am glad I am not these people.

I don’t fall for the Valentine’s Day hype. I keep my expectations low, only anticipating discounted candy when the holiday concludes. The one time that I set the highest of expectations was February 14, 2007, the day of my grandmother’s funeral. I expected a room full of friends and family at her service, a solemn procession from the funeral home to the cemetery, and a gathering beside her grave for a final farewell.

Then the #ValentinesDayBlizzard struck: #WorstValentinesDayEver.

The plows and previous vehicles had cleared a single track right down the middle of the road to the funeral home. I clutched the door handle in the back seat, my white knuckles a contrast to my all-black outfit.  No one else was fool enough to be out, so we arrived without incident.

The snow had stopped overnight, but the layer of ice hiding underneath scared off many of Grandma’s mourners. Looking around at the empty chairs, I thought of all of the acquaintances she had visited in nursing homes, the former coworkers she had called on the phone, the friends to whom she had written letters and sent cards, the family for whom she had baked pies and delivered cookies. I knew why they weren’t here now, but it just didn’t seem fair.

Grandma died a week after her ninety-second birthday. Snippets from those nine decades were part of her eulogy: growing up on a farm; working at the rubber factory during World War II; fishing at her winter home in Florida. It made me sad to think I would never hear her stories again. It made me angry at myself for not writing them down. I’ll remember, I believed, when I should have begged, “Tell me again what was it like during the war.” Already, I could feel the details slipping away.

In consultation with the funeral home director, my father had decided there would be no graveside service. Grandma’s plot beside her husband of sixty years was buried under snow. The lanes from the state route into cemetery had not been plowed. Grandma’s burial would have to wait.

I remembered back to Grandpa’s funeral service. As a veteran, an honor guard had shot rifles in the air beside his grave. Afterward, Grandma told the story of her family doctor’s funeral. It, too, had featured an honor guard. The doctor’s wife fainted when the rifle cracked. Appalled and confused, his young granddaughter shouted, “The sons of bitches shot Grandma!”

We all laughed. Grandma had a way of sharing a story that could make you smile, make you think, make you imagine you were right there with her. She was generous with her time and memories. As I watched her casket lid being closed, I knew I would ever again hear her voice, never again receive a Valentine’s Day card from her.

Grandma always said it snowed on her birthday. She was probably laughing and saying, “Why would my funeral be any different?” It wasn’t what I expected, but it makes an interesting story. What better way to show my love for Grandma than to continue her tradition.

Roscoe giving Grandma all the kisses she deserved

Roscoe giving Grandma all the kisses she deserved

14 thoughts on “a love story for Valentine’s Day

  1. This post is full of love. It made me cry. I also have a grandma, who is 91 now. She is still very lively and healthy and I am grateful for it. When I was at home she used to tell me the stories about the War, when she lived near the Cracow ghetto, when she escaped the bombings, when she met my grandpa. I am sure I will regret not writing it all down.

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  2. Oh I love that you shared your grandma for valentine’s day. such a wonderful tribute of love. Way better than chocolate or flowers but i suggest eating some chocolate while enjoying her memories. even sweeter.

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  3. This is beautiful. I blame any typos in my comments on the tears that have escaped my eyes. This is such a lovely tribute. Your storytelling gene must have been inherited from here. This took me back to my uncle’s funeral. He died on Valentien’s Day when I was in 8th grade. There was a blizzard in NY but we made it to his service.

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