For our first Valentine's Day together, Carol suggested filet mignon and a movie at home. “The restaurants here are all crazy on Valentine's,” she explained. I'm blessed her idea of crazy matches mine, especially when it comes to dining. It will, though, be my first Valentine's Day lacking any exuberant panache or over-the-top flair.
During my years with Carolyn, I always over-delivered on this day. When I presented her with a bouquet of roses, she told me it was the first time anyone had given her flowers for Valentine's Day. (My God, the sweet woman had once been married for four years!) That first year I reserved a stretch limo (there was no coach and four available in Kirkland) and wore a suit, tie and wingtips for the occasion. (I generally only wear such garb to funerals.) I wanted her to know how special it was for me to be able to celebrate Valentine's Day with her, as well as make every one we would share make up for all those she should have enjoyed but didn't, due to the innate stupidity of the male gender, I suppose.
There would be no need to over-deliver this day with Carol, however. Having enjoyed forty-four bouquets and candlelight dinners with her best friend and soulmate, my only task would be a continuation of what Carol was used to. Still, Reid Being Reid, I couldn't resist a bit of, say, Bohemian theatrics at a rustic inn in Big Sur. When rainstorms put the damper on that, that left local eateries, which Carol knew from experience, would be filled with couples fulfilling their mandated Holy Day of Obligation.
It's probably just as well that we celebrate the day quietly alone. Both Carolyn and Carol were and are unassuming, salt-of-the-earth kind of girls, and I suspect in retrospect my valentine spectacles had a whiff of the self-congratulatory air about it. (I wonder how many cynics observed me escorting Carolyn out of that stretch limo and thinking, “what's he hiding from her?”) But I know Carolyn appreciated the extra attention, and so will this Yonkers girl, when I will one day strut my stuff for her. (Given what she's seen me wear on a typical evening dining out, she'll be wowed by a simple sports coat and Skechers.)
As widows, many might think us wise for Carol and I to temper outward expressions of love and affection. But that hasn't seemed to enter our thinking at all. At this time a year ago, we still hadn't known the other existed. That we are both able to plan just a quiet Valentine's Day at home - our home!- qualifies on its own as an over-the-top expectation. Last Valentine's Day I spent drinking in a Portland, Oregon sports bar with one of my son’s close friends. At the time I was fully convinced that would become my new normal. For her part, Carol took a babysitting gig and took her two oldest grandchildren out for pizza.
We're both more than grateful, neither of those experiences - as enjoyable as they were on their own - are being repeated this year.