I dread Valentine’s Day. The inevitability of this celebration is as overwhelming to me as the observance of Tax Day…a chill runs down my spine just thinking about it. Since J is a high school student, he is aware of this particular Hallmark occasion. Chocolates and small cards (tokens of appreciation and a negligible attempt to boost the economy) will be provided. I am sure he will come home, as he does every year, with loot of the same ilk.
This being Modern Day America, precautions will be taken: no Valentine’s cards that might be construed as sexually-charged (someone once complained about “Dora loves Boots” because it sounded “dirty”…yeah…I know…,) and no candy that could potentially cause a life-threatening allergic reaction will be provided. I’ve considered packets of Splenda or Truvia, but even then…one never knows!
The truth is that Valentine’s Day is OK if you are into that sort of thing. I’ve only received TWO Valentine’s Day cards in my entire romantically-viable life. Both have been from my husband…they were seventeen years apart. Both made me cry and feel ecstatic, and I remember both distinctly even though only one survived the turbulent years of my adolescence…and this because I didn’t get the second one until I was 34. Valentine’s Day comes and goes, and nary a flower, nary a box of chocolates, nary a piece of lingerie purchased solely for the purpose of bowing to convention.
J thinks it’s about chocolates and those little sugar-bomb hearts with the messages etched into them. J gives those to himself. He grabs them at the store and pays for them with his own money. I then hide them. OK, he’s allowed SOME, but that much sugar isn’t good for anyone. No, I don’t eat them. OK…maybe I’ll eat a few, but I do it rolling my eyes at the triteness of the sentiments and that cuts the sugar content by at least half.
It is not that romantic love isn’t important in this household. Trust me: it IS. My husband and I seek out opportunities to curl up together and talk, or neck, or anything else having to do with marital togetherness. We are big fans of marital togetherness, and we consider ourselves very much a couple. We just don’t do the googly-eyes, romantic dinners (if we can sit and eat a meal without interruption, a request for noodles, insistence on the kitchen being CLEAN before we are done with our meal we consider ourselves BLESSED!,) and flowers. No, it’s not that we’re not romantic, it’s just that we believe that romance is far removed from the foil-wrapped, red-and-pink cellophane, heart-shaped, chocolate-covered stuff.
Romance in a household with J in it is definitely not about windswept hair or Fabio-like open shirts. “Do you hear that?,” one of us says. “Silence!,” the other responds. Hee hee hee…like two goofballs who have realized they have a moment to themselves and creep up the stairs as silently as they can. “You’re endangering the mission!,” one whispers loudly as the other steps on the creakiest step in the whole house. This step is located directly in front of J’s door and seems to, somehow, be connected to the wood plank that is directly under wherever his ear is resting. The creak, not earth-shatteringly loud to us, hits decibels only audible to our hypersensitive hearing-ed son…if light suddenly appears under his door, we’ll retreat like King Arthur and his knights when faced with the Killer Bunny.
If we’re not ratted out by a creaky step, we’ll be ratted out by the cats. That is: they will lurk around and wait until we precariously attempt to mount the stairs and then, at the very moment the light is turned off so we can navigate the rest of the way camouflaged by darkness, the felines will jump between our feet, trip us up or let out a loud wail that doesn’t result from being stepped on, but rather from a desire to take revenge for past grievances. The child that had been snoring loudly mere moments before will click his light on and, like teenagers who have been caught sneaking back into the house, we will scatter and pretend we were just going to “put laundry away” or “check in on you.”
Sometimes Valentine’s Day arrives unexpectedly. The same over-the-top gestures of romance that people want…expect…on “the most romantic day of the year” happen in the middle of July, or some time during October, or upon returning from a trip to the grocery store, or over a Wednesday morning cup of coffee. There isn’t a card involved. In spring there is a garden, a collective effort to put something forth and watch it grown, and then perhaps consume it in a salad a few months later. Sometimes it’s a quiet approach at the library, when one of us tells the other “remember that book you were looking for??? It’s here!” Sometimes it’s when we’re surrounded by tissue that’s been balled up, the air is thick with Vicks VapoRub, and the toast of choice has enough antihistamines to assuage some symptoms and enough alcohol to not let you care about the others. Sometimes it’s the slightly-more-expensive slab of cheese that we never buy, but there it is, on a tray, with some prosciutto that had been frozen in the back of the freezer, and some crackers that we’re hoping aren’t as stale as they look.
Loving my children is inevitable. The Great Gonzo, with all his lurches forward and backward, is quite the adorable human being; a potentially-magnificent man who doesn’t yet comprehend his worth. J, well, what’s not to love there? He is funny and caring, clumsy and contagiously human; under the layers of medicine-induced weight, J is a springy sort of person, one who would break into song-and-dance routines if the world allowed for such behavior.
Loving my husband and him loving me back is nothing short of a miracle. Thirty-five years after (melodramatically and, of course, unbeknownst to him) surrendering my heart to him for all eternity, I still find myself trying to twirl on my now-arthritic toes when I think of him or he walks into the room. Only he understands my hand gestures (even the ones that are rather non-descript and not particularly rude,) my sense of humor, my sense of outrage, my sudden outbursts of opinionated blathering…and still he finds me (with his increasingly failing eyesight) beautiful and (with his increasingly failing hearing) melodious. “You drive me nuts and I love you.” Never have sweeter words been spoken to me…
J, with his boundless enthusiasm, will shop for sugar-laden signs of “I’m autistic and I’m not very social, but I’m willing to bow to convention if you’ll give me some candy” this weekend. He will come home and sift through the cards to get to the treats…sweet, sweet, irresistible heart-shaped chocolates and lollipops. He will get tangled in any stickers and demand that I remove them from his sight (and his clothes and his skin) immediately.
My husband will come home and, like two dorks, we will imitate John and Abigail Adams in 1776, singing and emoting “Yours, Yours, Yours” as we go about the business of every single other day in our lives. We are a pair…an odd one. I tell him our song is Rodgers and Hart’s “Ev’rything I’ve Got”…he says it’s Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” I don’t know who’s right, but I suspect this just IS.