The Little Valentines
My uncle wasn't romantic, but he showed his love in little valentines every day.
“I was in denial. Until he took his last breath, I thought he wasn’t going to die.” My aunt choked up as she talked to me. “I sure do miss my Charles.” They’d spent their last Valentine’s day together in the hospital. My aunt was diagnosed with Central Nervous System Lymphoma, or brain cancer. The next month, my Uncle Charles was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She didn’t die. He did.
Alice and Charles had spent the previous 50 years together. As she talked about her life with him, she fought back tears. He was a kind and considerate man.
The First Valentine’s Day
Her favorite Valentine’s Day present was the first. In 1962 Charles stopped by the parsonage where Alice lived with her family. She was just a teenager, but they were already engaged. He got out of the car with presents for Alice. “He had the most beautiful, big Valentine box full of chocolate candy. I’d never seen one that big before.” The box was covered in blue satin and a big blue bow. He also brought her a bottle of perfume. “My heart just pitter-pattered.”
“He was romantic?” I questioned her. She laughed. “To a point.”
So Charles wasn’t terribly romantic. Most of the time, his valentines were the love he showed her every day. The way he lived life in the small moments.
The Little Valentines
Alice had just given birth to their second child and was feeling down because she couldn’t celebrate Thanksgiving with her mom, dad and siblings. Charles cooked the turkey and Alice made a German Chocolate cake. They would celebrate Thanksgiving at their home. As they held their hands for prayer before the meal, Charles cheerfully told Alice, “Just think Momma, last year we didn’t have any babies, and this year we have two little boys!” Alice cheered up.
When their second child was an infant, Charles worked the night shift. Alice asked him to bring home a Mounds candy bar after he got off work. “He was late getting home the next morning. It concerned me because he always came straight home from work. When he came in he had two boxes. It was a box of 32 Mounds and a box of 32 Almond Joys. I was awestruck.”
He made breakfast every morning for her and her mother, my grandmother, who lived with them for a while. If they wanted something they didn’t have in the pantry, he always made sure it was on the breakfast table the next morning. “He took such good care of us.”
During the difficult times, Charles comforted her. “When Renee died (their son’s 20-year-old fiancée), he just held me. When Mother died he just held me. No words were necessary.”
The Last Summer
Then time became short. “We had such a sweet, sweet last summer together. We got up each morning and could smile at each other’s faces and hug each other. Just being with him was all I needed.”
Although Alice was in denial about Charles’ imminent death, he wasn’t. Their granddaughter Hayleigh had just told them she was expecting a baby. “The only thing he said was ‘I really do wish I could see Hayleigh’s baby.’ He loved babies and children.”
During one of their last stays together at the hospital Charles prepared for surgery. Before the procedure, he stopped by Alice’s bedside. “He leaned over me, looked in my eyes and said, ‘Well, Momma, we’ve had a good life together, haven’t we?'” She agreed.
They were too sick to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, but planned a party for the fall. Friends and family came. It was their last anniversary. Charles died in November, 7 months after his diagnosis.
‘The Love of My Life’
Many times over the years she’s been asked if she was sorry she married at 16 years old and missed out on the fun of being a teenager. “My reply has always been ‘Absolutely not. The Lord gave the perfect husband to me and gave us a wonderful life together with beautiful children and grandchildren.'”
Alice believes theirs was a marriage made in heaven. “I thank the Lord for sending Charles to me. He was just the man for me. Always. The love of my life.” She paused at the end of her story, as if to relive the moments. “Praise the Lord,” she said, “for giving us so many years.”
It didn’t really matter that Charles wasn’t all that romantic. He showed his love — little Valentines — every day.