We treat memories like treasures. We hold onto them so we can share them, but the really special ones or the really painful ones we share with very few. As if keeping them a secret make them worth more overall than the ones we readily share.
I am as guilty of that as anyone, and probably even more so. I may blather on about things, but there are very few precious memories that I share with the world. Part of it has to do with me being a very public private person. I can talk about anything and everything that has happened to me, up to a point. There are things that I keep in my recesses (as I suppose we all do) for various personal reasons.
Things I have shared with few people, if any at all.
Today it hit me that these memories are going to be lost. Memories that I haven’t shared with anyone. But given that my grandmother had Alzheimer’s, and both my father and my mother have suffered strokes, every year I grow older is a year I grow closer to possibly losing these little treasures I hold so dear.
So indulge me for a bit if I write them down here, and share them with you. Humour me if I go off track. But I want to be able to go back one day, when I’m in The Home and believing that John Taylor from Duran Duran is my husband and his dad is David Bowie and we all have dinner together twice a week, three times on Sunday, and read about this young lady whose heart seems heavy yet familiar.
Februarys are tough months for me. They weren’t always. I used to be a big proponent of Valentine’s Day. I bought little cards for my friends, then co-workers, and baked goods and ate cinnamon hearts until my tongue felt like it was falling off. I went all mushball when I was partnered up and adored being catered to on February 14th. When I was married, my husband, the chef, would always make sure I had some of his special chicken liver pate on that day (because it was my favourite thing on earth that he made, chocolate commitment cake be damned), even if he was called into work. I never wanted him to buy flowers on that day, never wanted chocolates that he didn’t make on that day, and we never went to dinner on that day. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, they say. A lot of knowledge made us more creative about how we approached each other on Valentine’s Day.
Except on Valentine’s Day 2005.
It was a Sunday. I hung out with my husband inside for most of the day, because that’s what you do when the person you love is in the hospital on February 14. I had to work the next day, and I had to go home and look after our dog. Paul had worked hard to get better, and was going to be released from the hospital that week so he could continue his recovery at home. We were trying to figure out all of the supports and equipment he would need at our apartment to be able to cope and manage. I remember being at home and trying to figure out what kind of food I should be buying for the week, as well as trying to sort out what I should be having for dinner, when I got a delivery at my door.
It was a bouquet of flowers.
I wondered who in their right mind would spend that kind of cash on February 14, and I started to get upset. I thought they were from my mother, until I opened the card. Inside had my husband’s handwriting, shaky because of the strength it took him to hold a pen and write, with his pet name for me, and a simple “Love, …” salutation.
I knew his mother had helped to arrange for the flowers. I knew that she had probably thought of putting the entire package together for me. But I also knew the effort it took him to write that message in the card. And my heart sank.
It was the last gift he ever gave me while he was here. Six days later he would leave us.
So if you were wondering why I don’t like Valentine’s Day, why I deflect this day with cynical humour, faux pining away about not having a date or flowers or candy, now you know. After reading this, you can probably guess why I never want any gifts on this day ever again, regardless of my relationship status. (My ex, who, like most of my family, also suffers from a brain disorder, tended to forget that he shouldn’t bring me flowers on February 14. On those occasions where he did buy flowers, it was when he handed them to me, he would realise what he had done.)
This Valentine’s Day starts a countdown of sorts. This year will be ten years since Paul passed away. It’s also a demarcation point. Once this year is over, I will have gone past the break-even point; this year evenly splits the years that he was in my life versus the time after he left my life.
Moving on doesn’t mean throwing away the pain of memory or experience. Some things never leave.
But it’s what you do to get through those times that helps you for when the next time the pain comes around. Holding onto these memories, keeping my silence about Valentine’s Day to the majority of the world, and still trying to be polite, all of that just made me tighten the grip around my grief. And that is not what he nor anyone else would have wanted. Most importantly, it’s not what I want to do. Anymore.