by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson
Ah. Valentine’s Day – a day to celebrate love and romance. It’s been made a little cynical and commercial by the marketers of cards, candy, flowers and jewelry, but at heart it’s still a day to celebrate Romance with a capital R. By the way, am I the only one offended by the jewelry store commercials for all gift-giving seasons that imply if he gives you jewelry you should love him? I love jewelry and spend a lot of time wearing enough bling for a Christmas tree, but the idea that jewelry = love just doesn’t work for me.
Back to the subject. Romance. The (future) Husband and I had been dating about six weeks. He is a high-ranking military officer (now retired, thank goodness!) and an extremely reticent man. Reticent in that he doesn’t talk much at all or (then) didn’t believe in any public expression of affection, even to holding hands. When we crossed a street he would take my hand, then drop it like a hot potato once we were on the other side. (Thankfully that has all changed. Now we happily kiss in public, even while shopping for groceries.)
I had decided long ago that I wasn’t ever going to marry. I had been having too much fun being single, even to the extent of being engaged to three different men who lived on three different continents – all at the same time. Goodness, that was a fun year! Anyway, when The Husband-to-be and I started dating I was fifty and set in my ways. He was a number of years younger and had been divorced for twenty-some-odd years. Total rebachelorfication.
Anyway, it was Valentine’s Day and his gift to both of us was tickets to the Garth Brooks concert. You couldn’t buy specific seats – you bought admission and were assigned seats. The concert was in a local sports arena that held enough people to rival the population of a small European country, and it was packed – so totally sold out that Garth agreed to do another concert in the same venue and it sold out too. Our seats were up in the gods, about half a dozen rows from the roof. I had never been to a C&W concert before (my tastes are classical) and didn’t know any of the songs. It was a rude awakening. Garth would hit a chord, start to sing and after about three notes the audience would start screaming and yelling until the song was over, so you couldn’t hear anything. I had to listen to C&W on the radio for weeks afterward to hear what I had ‘heard’ at the concert.
Except for one song. When Garth sang the romantic ballad “If Tomorrow Never Comes – Will She Know How Much I Loved Her?” the audience was totally silent. All of us in the audience were standing – and most of us had been dancing in place to some of the livelier tunes – but in that huge arena you could almost hear a pin drop. Suddenly in the middle of the song The future Husband turned around, put his arms around me and gave me a passionate Technicolor MGM romantic-fade out kiss. (Remember, this is a man who didn’t even like to hold hands in public!) He didn’t quite bend me over backwards, but he might as well have. It was as romantic a kiss as I had ever had to then and for a moment – in our section, at least – we were getting as much attention as the show. About mid-way through this inspired osculation I decided that I wanted to marry this man.
Well, I would have married him the next day, but nothing is that easy. It took him three years to pop the question, but when he finally did get around to it, he did it with memorable panache – under a three-quarter moon in the beautiful English-style gardens of the Mena Hotel, a 5 star hostelry that started life as a khedive’s love nest/hunting lodge in Giza, across the street from the Pyramids. Yes, THOSE Pyramids.
I was a first time bride at 54, a move that many said was absolute insanity, that two strong-willed people used to living alone would tear each other apart. They were wrong. Ours is a blessed union, and he has never stopped doing romantic things. (I do for him, too, but that’s the subject of another blog.) Most of them are small, intimate things that matter only to us, but on occasion he goes over the top. For my birthday a couple of years ago he surprised me with a BMW X3 in my favorite blue. On our tenth wedding anniversary he took me to Paris (yes, THAT Paris) for a week. When he returned from his first deployment (an entire year!) to Iraq, he brought me a 23K gold, exquisitely carved bangle bracelet. No, jewelry does not equate love, but if you are already sure of the love, the jewelry is very nice.
True romance is the best, and it’s worth waiting for the right man. If we have any regrets, it’s that we didn’t meet twenty five years earlier, so that we could have had that many more years with each other. By the way, we do everything together. I go with him to his rocket and gem-and-mineral society meetings. He goes to my writers’ meetings (and a lot of conventions, too) with me. Life together is pleasure expanded exponentially. And that, my friends, is true romance.