Friday, February 3, 2012

A Love Letter to my Valentines

Over the years of my life I have never really understood the unofficial Valentines Day celebration of love. I guess that its primarily because as a kid we were required to have our parents run down to the local 5 and 10 cent store to pick up a huge bag of cheap but tasteful Valentine cards. These we dutifully filled out and labeled with the names of the boys and girls we liked and then passed them around the classroom. It was a real downer when you gave a card to a girl you liked and she looked at you with distain and went yuk! I heard a lot of yuks in those days. 

I guess in a way this is another one of those Valentine Cards, but this time it’s a little different. I’m not going to talk politics, simply because I am not in a political mood, and also because for just a little bit I want to pay tribute to some one special. 

Over the years I have been fortunate enough, or unfortunate enough, depending on your point of view, to have two very special women in my life. Stephanie and Valerie. Both have shaped me and in their ways have supported me. Even in times when I didn’t deserve it. 

I met Stephanie when I was 19 years old and she was 26. She was a school teacher for the Department of Defense Schools in Germany at the time, and I was in the Army. She passed away some years back, but I look back on our all too brief marriage with a certain amount of fondness and a great deal of love for her. She opened the world to me. She gave me literature, the Arts, and the world around me. She taught me that there was true beauty in the world around us, despite the horrors of history and the losses to the spirit of humankind. And although she didn’t know it, she taught me other lessons about tolerance, love, and learning how to keep my mouth shut on issues that in the long run didn’t really matter. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn those lessons until it was too late. Most importantly she gave me two sons of whom I am extremely proud for their accomplishments in their lives. 

The second woman in my life is my current wife Valerie. This coming July we will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. Who would have thought we would make it this far. Actually not many people did. When we met and married in Virginia, friends, family, and even members of our church had a pool going as to how long it would last. I don’t know if anyone won that one, but so far we’ve made them look like a bunch of turkeys. 

When I first met Valerie I was applying for a job at a dingy little radio station in Brookneal, Virginia. She was sitting behind the counter filling out those forms that advertisers require you send to them and I immediately fell in love with her. I was so smitten with her that I began telling one lie after another, in order to make her think that I was better than I was. The weird thing about it was, and she told me this years later, that she knew I was lying to her from the start, but for some reason she liked me. Or at least at the time she thought I was funny. To make a long story short I courted her and her son and daughter and we were married. 

She taught me the true meaning of commitment, love, and adversity. Yeah, I know it sounds kind of weird, but with the lessons I learned from Stephanie, I also learned that we all have a certain necessity to be needed. And Valerie needed me. And I needed her.

Like all marriages there is a point when you stand back and think to yourself; do I really need to go through this shit!? Depending on your character and the type of person you are the answer, whatever it is, will come to you. It did to me.

Over the past twenty-five years Valerie has given me two beautiful daughters in addition to her son Tony, and her daughter Jeannette. Jeannean and Jeannifer. Yeah, I know, but she has this thing for names that start with the letter “J”. Tony’s full name is James Anthony. And I love all of them with all of my heart. 

Valerie’s gifts to me have been many and varied. She has defended me when I didn’t deserve it. She has stood by me when it seemed like the entire world stood against me. She’s encouraged me to stand forth and tell people that there is a better way, when they didn’t want to hear it. And she has given me her love. 

Most importantly she rescued me. I have often thought back on those years and realized that were it not for her I would be either in a gutter in Lynchburg drunk and living on the streets or still shoveling pig shit on the pig farm I was working on when I met her. She gave me the will and the courage to go out and achieve and try to make things better for all of us. I have to admit that I didn’t do a very good job at it at times, but the wonderful thing about it all is that, she still loves me. Even after all of the crap that I’ve put her through. 

The last 25 years have gone by so fast. Gone within the blink of an eye, and all of a sudden I am faced with the fear of loosing her. I don’t know what I would do without her. She my best friend, lover, confidant, and strength. I cannot imagine life without her, and I don’t want to try to imagine it. 

I love her, and she loves me. I guess in the end that’s all that matters. 

Happy Valentines Day