Romantic not in Daddy’s vocabulary

Published 7:33 pm Friday, February 11, 2022

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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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“Look, Mama, here comes Daddy with your Valentine candy.”

Mama would laugh and act surprised and happy.

Daddy’s birthday was on Valentine’s Day so 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.

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 a box of Valentine candy.”

She laughed. Then, we cried.

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

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