No more boxes of Valentine candy

Published 11:04 pm Friday, February 5, 2016

Romantic is not a word that would have been used to describe Daddy.

I’m not sure the word was even in his vocabulary.

But he understood the meaning of Valentine’s Day so he always bought Mama a big, heart-shaped box of Valentine candy with plastic roses on the top.

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Inside the box was an assortment of soft-centered chocolates.

Mama would mash the chocolates to see what was inside. She didn’t care for many of the centers but, evidently, that didn’t bother Daddy one bit. He went right behind her, eating the candies with exposed centers and not seeming to notice that he’d eaten more of Mama’s Valentine candy than she had.

“Look, Mama, here comes Daddy with ‘his’ Valentine candy.”
Mama would laugh and act surprised and happy but secretly wished that, just one time, Daddy would get her a box of those pecan clusters that she liked so much … and ones she wouldn’t have to mash.

Daddy’s birthday was on Valentine’s Day and every year Mama would bake him a birthday cake and decorate it with red hearts and write “Happy Birthday, William” on the top. Daddy didn’t care for parties so that was about the most we made of his birthday. We’d give him some presents that he didn’t especially want. Mama would cook his favorite, stewed potatoes, and that would be it or so we thought.
Just as soon as Mama and I got finished in the kitchen and sat down to watch television, Daddy would say, “How about one of y’all getting me a bowl of ice cream.”

And, one of us would hop right up and get Daddy a big, mixing bowl of ice cream and Mama would get her box of chocolates and start mashing.

For many years, that was our Valentine Day’s tradition. We celebrated Daddy’s birthday and Valentine’s Day as one. It was a happy time.

Then, all of that changed.

On Feb. 13, 1965, Daddy’s mother died.

I had started my first teaching job and was home to celebrate Daddy’s birthday and Valentine’s Day. In the middle of the night, I heard my granddaddy, who was “hard of hearing,” banging on the window in Mama and Daddy’s bedroom.

“Mother’s had a heart attack and I can’t get her up off the floor,” he called in a voice so loud that it rang in my ears.

Pop and Daddy got to the house before I did. They were lifting Mommie onto the bed. The pain and sorrow of that moment engulfed me. I’ll never forget the sound of their agony or the pain of mine.

Mommie’s death and Daddy’s birthday became as one.

Mama didn’t get a big, heart-shaped box of candy with plastic roses on top that year.

Valentine’s Day was cloaked in sadness and would forever, thereafter, be a bittersweet day in our lives.

The next year though, I looked out the window. “Mama, here comes Daddy with ‘his’ box of Valentine candy.”

She laughed.

For years after, Mama mashed the middles. Daddy ate his favorite, stewed potatoes and called for his mixing bowl of ice cream.  But much of the joy was missing and always would be.

The Valentine’s Day after Daddy died in 1983, I bought Mama a big, heart-shaped box of Valentine’s candy with plastic roses on the top.  We both cried.

There would be no more big, heart-shaped boxes of Valentine candy with plastic roses on the top in our lives.