84: My Valentine

84: My Valentine

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer's & Other Dementias

My Valentine

Oh, if it be to choose and call thee mine, love, thou art every day my Valentine!

~Thomas Hood

Valentine’s Day has always been a big deal at our house. Although my husband is a year-round romantic, John feels that this is the day to put the icing on the love cake.

Our celebrations have ranged from a quiet, candlelit dinner in a pricey French restaurant to a wild, pizza-fueled, weekend sleepover with our grandkids. No matter how we marked the occasion, Valentine’s Day was always filled with love and gratitude for the life we created together. This year we decided to avoid the crowds and went out to dinner a few days early, but kept our tradition of not exchanging cards until “the day.”

John elevated Valentine card shopping into a high art form. He could spend hours looking for the perfect sentiment. Mostly romantic, sometimes funny, his choices clearly reflected what was going on in our life at the time. He took this task so seriously that he kept the location of his favorite card store a secret. However, this year would be different. John was living with Alzheimer’s disease, and because of his diagnosis, he could no longer drive.

As Valentine’s Day drew near, John became anxious because he had not been able to go card shopping. I told him not to worry, that I would drive him to the store and he could pick something out. This bothered him even more. How could he find the perfect card if I was hovering in the background? And what about flowers? Where was he going to get the long-stemmed red roses that he wanted to give me?

My aunt came to our rescue by asking a simple question: “What can I do for you today?” We jumped at the opportunity for her to take John to the store. Unsure if John had enough money, I pressed some bills into her hand while he was getting ready to go. To her raised eyebrow I responded, “Tell him that is his budget.” They bundled themselves into the car and off they went.

I didn’t realize until that moment how important it was to the both of us to have another year of surprise. When I later mentioned this to a friend, she said she would put all of our important dates on her calendar and make sure to take him shopping each time.

I received a bouquet of beautiful red tulips and, as usual, his card was perfect. In essence it told me of his gratitude to me for listening, for lifting him when he stumbles, and for laughing with him. For being his one and only Valentine.

~Angie Carrillo

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