My expression must appear ugly contorted when he catches me looking at the faded yellow and purple smear outlining the Zorro stitches on his arm, because he laughs. I’m looking at my Valentine gift. He asks if this is really the gift I wanted, when it makes me hurt all over to look at it, even more than before.
Twenty-two years of marriage and I ask him to go to the doctor, to get the black pencil eraser-sized place on his upper arm checked for my Valentine’s Day present. Because he just can’t find the time to go, for a year now. Peace of mind is worth more than a trinket.
And on that day, when I tell my son I have to go pick up a prescription for his Dad, he responds, “Oh yeah, for your Valentine’s Day present.”
That sore zigzag, it is my crown of thorns in the here and now, reminding me of sacrificial love.
He has shown me love like this from the beginning. When he hosts a yard sale in the upscale neighborhood where he grew up, for the wedding ring he wants to put on my finger, when he asks on the balcony of the Phoenician.
Again, when he asks his parents if I can move in with them, until the wedding. Because there were safety issues in the apartment complex I called home.
I move in with the untrained lap dog that whizzes all over the white carpet in the room with the grand piano. It’s okay with him but I give the dog away to a good home. And that dog, it demolishes the inside of the bathroom door the day they take him away.
H walks in the snow so I can have the car in Colorado, drives the car without air-conditoning in Phoenix, sells his car so we can keep mine in Tennessee.
And when I endure twenty-two hours of labor giving birth to our first child, my man gets empathy sick, sits beside me awake through the whole ordeal. Feeds me ice chips between wiping his nose and body aches. Stays the course.
On that Valentine’s Day before the Zorro scar, when the kids were still too small to crawl out of bed, he presents the mini aqua box with the white satin bow I didn’t expect. It holds the silver charm bracelet with my initials engraved on one side, Tiffany’s on the other. The one I never mentioned I wanted. We both looked at that aqua catalog on the floor next to the porcelain throne for weeks. I still wonder how he read my mind.
I know he loves me when he lays on my side of the bed first to warm it up, and when my cell phone finds its home on the charger without me. When he tries to fix my curling iron, reminds me that it was on all day in a normal voice, and says, “we need to buy you a new one.”
Then there are days like last Friday, when I admit forgetting to pick up the coffee that ran out two days ago, when he calls from work to check in. Says he will pick it up on the way home. And he brings flowers too, the ones in the pictures.
When I lay awake at night as a little girl, soaking my pillow with tears and wondering why God gave me parents who don’t love each other or have the capacity to parent, this scripture becomes a miraculous reality in the person of my husband.