Valentine’s Day

Its Valentine's Day at Davis Health Care center and its obvious that the staff has enthusiastically succumbed to the dictates of the greeting card and florists industries.  Decorations are everywhere, and special activities have been planned to celebrate – romance?  Well, probably not.  The feeling I have is that it's a special day, a day to give and get reminders that someone loves you.   There's a party atmosphere, and it's nice.  Reality is still evident: one elderly senile woman in the common area is still plaintively announcing, "Nobody cares, nobody cares".   Another diminutive woman in a wheel chair is guarding this hall, pleading "Help me!  Help me!" to everyone passing by.  But, it's a real holiday around here nevertheless, this day when it's OK to say, "I love you".  So, I am saying it to Mom this Valentine's day. 

She was in her room in bed when I arrived, with my bud vase and card.  Some unknown child or friend has also remembered the day with a rose cone, but there is no card, so I can't tell who sent it.  After getting settled I started my customary one-sided conversation with her. 

"Hi, Mom, it's Allan.  It's Valentines day!  I've brought you a Valentine."

Mom struggles to open her eyes a crack, and appears to be trying to focus. I give her a kiss on her forehead, and she mumbles something. 

"I love you", I say.  "It's Valentines Day and I love you!".   I repeat the words several times, in a number of variations.

Unmistakably, Mom smiles.  Encouraged, I tell her once more, "I love you!".

Still smiling, she amazes me by answering, "Good", and with that one word she makes my day. 

During his last years, Dad's constant lesson to all of us, but perhaps most emphatically to me, was that the act of loving is what is important, not the response.  So, day after day, he journeyed to this same bedside and said "I love you".  He said it with words, of course, but he also said it with his kisses, his faithfulness, his tender ministries, his touch, his watchful care, his hope, and – against all logic – his continued delight in his Beloved.  Sometimes he got a response, and he would savor each for days, but most often he did not.  Everyone who saw it was changed, as I have been. 

Now I too journey here as often as I can, and sit here and say, "I love you", and know that it is the saying, the being here, which is important, not whether she hears or understands.  But this mostly silent person beside me is also my Mommy, and in some respect I'll always be the 6-year old who's just brought home a card clumsily constructed out of pink paper and candy hearts, with "I love you" scrawled on it, because I want my Mommy to know I love her.  "Happy Valentine's Day, Mommy", I say, and give her the card. 

            "Good,"  she says with a smile, and lights up my world.

I am beginning to get a faint glimpse of why Dad made these trips, every day.

I love all of you,