On a warmish day in late January, I went to the store and was befuddled to see hoards of red balloons, heart shaped candies and flowers galore. The display was an excessive reminder that February 14 was a few weeks away. Honestly, I kind of forgot.
Grief produces a number of reactions, but one that has been highly pronounced for me is forgetfulness. I forget about eating, my phone passcode or events to which I RSVP’d. I even forgot a family member’s birthday at the beginning of the month, which is so out of character. Most who know me know I may not always arrive on time, but I am timely when it comes to remembering and recognizing anniversaries, birthdays, special days and so on. I am Paperless Post’s top user. The oblivion doesn’t stop there. One evening I took the trash out and forgot my keys. Thankfully a neighbor let me in. In the same instance, I had also forgotten I had the ability to buzz myself in. After suffering his own great loss, he used to say, “I need to get my mind in order.” I always thought it was such a vague statement. Now, I completely understand it.
Early this morning around 3:00 AM, I was awakened by a notification reminding me that an event entitled, “D+D V-Day” starts tomorrow. It is scheduled to last all day and it recurs annually.
I never hated Valentine’s Day. Well, maybe I denounced it in college because some jerk attempted to break my heart. I say “attempted” because I realize my heart had never been broken until I lost my best friend. It’s yet another day of missing a love that is so special to me. It never took Valentine’s Day for me to feel adored because love was in the air everyday. Although, he always managed to find the best Mahogany cards.
In 2016, Valentine’s Day was on Sunday and we went to our beloved church to kick off the celebration. That morning I told him, “It’s Valentine’s Day, I want to relax.” In a dramatized voice he turned to me and said, “If you can get up for brunch, you can get up to go to the house of the Lord.” I said he sounded like Reverend Lenox Thomas. If you’re a fan of Richard Pryor, like he was, you know the reference. Which Way Is Up? is a great movie.
On Hallmark’s heyday and beyond, going to church together was lively. During the peace, I always hugged him before any other parishioner, a tradition I inherited from my mom. I would look directly in his eyes and say, “May the peace of the Lord be always with you.” He’d reply, “And also with you, Rion. You better watch yourself with these tight hugs in church.” After the exchange of the peace the offertory hymn begins. Every Sunday, we had the same silent conversation. He would get an envelope from the back of the pew and put money inside of it. He would then motion the envelope towards me with a raised brow that meant, “Are you going to add to this?” Remember when Blue Ivy stopped her mom on the red carpet? Her’s was the face I returned which meant, “I thought you had my dollars?” Then, he would shake his head and write both of our names on the envelope. After church, we would walk down 14th Street and discuss our moves for the upcoming week, rain or shine. Every now and again, he would whisk me to the inside of the sidewalk. “You know you’re supposed to stay on the inside.” He would have his program rolled up in one hand and my hand in the other.
It was freezing last year, but we still walked hand in hand to one of our favorite brunch spots in the neighborhood. We had a good meal, people watched and talked for hours. As we were leaving we saw a friend of ours. He greeted us, “Hello lovebirds. If I see one of you, I know I’m going to see the other.”
These days church is solely a time to reflect. I still put both of our names on the collection envelope. Communion always makes me cry. Before I leave, I place my hand on the memorial plaque and think of his words, “Rion, aren’t you glad I got you to church this morning?” I keep thinking about how difficult it will be to get through Lenten season. One of our first real dates was attending church together on Palm Sunday in 2012. He saved his palm. I have it now.
On Valentine’s Day the year before last it snowed before our dinner reservations at a Cuban restaurant in Silver Spring, M.D. “A little snow won’t hurt, I’ve seen way worse than this.” It was so much more than a little snow, but I went along with it. Once we arrived, it felt like we were in the Caribbean. Relaxed vibes and good music. The blizzard was out of sight and out of mind. When the waiter approached our table, he said, “I am here with a fine lady for Valentine’s Day, I want to impress her. I want her to enjoy herself. What do you recommend?” I guess the waiter has a lady he loves too, because he seemed to really appreciate the enthusiasm. In a matter of five minutes they practically became old buddies, which earned us outstanding service. I can be a light eater, but not that night. Everything was delicious. When we left, he shook the waiter’s hand and said, “Thanks man.”
I have totally avoided Silver Spring. Going there will flood my mind with memories. I would be an emotional wreck. Somehow, he always convinced me to hang out there. We enjoyed it, but he really enjoyed it. He said it reminded him of visiting family growing up, plus he was a huge fan of Chick-Fil-A. I am a Carolina girl, but if I never see a waffle fry again, I will survive.
It’s amazing to see how routine life becomes once someone is not in it. I still do a lot of the same things by myself, but it feels boring. He could make washing dishes fun.
There have been some truly happy moments over the past three months. My lovely college roommates visited two weeks ago. I was even lucky enough to have a group of girlfriends who I studied with in Ghana travel from across the country surprise me in January. At work, we completed our new website, which is a major accomplishment. I achieved a personal goal of becoming a contributing writer for a couple of different websites. New blessings and positive achievements don’t make the grief less difficult, it’s more like, all hope isn’t lost.
I read an article warning those who grieve about the detriments of Valentine’s Day. The author provides three options for making it through the day.
Option 1: Take the day off to be completely miserable.
Option 2: Ignore the day altogether.
Option 3: Reframe how you think about the day.
Option 1 is a waste of time. I experience utter misery from time to time. Sometimes the feeling comes on like a cold or something. There is no way I am going to take the day off to be miserable on purpose. Option 2 might work if I didn’t manage social media for a living. By the way, if I see one more whiny post about not having a Valentine. Maybe if you weren’t on Facebook complaining about it, you would have one. Anyway, I am left with Option 3. Just like today, tomorrow I am going to be alone. It is my new life. I will get through it. I can cope knowing that it’s another 24 hours. I don’t have the energy to be sad simply because it’s February 14. Being together filled us with so much joy, whether it was on Valentine’s Day or on the other 364 days of the year.
Lord willing, I will make it until February 15 and the days to follow.