Happy Valentine’s Day, darling. We were never huge Valentine’s Day celebrators over the years mostly because you strongly felt that a person’s impetus for romanticism and showing love should not be dictated by the date on a calendar but more by a stirring in the heart. You showed love for me on mundane days in May and in ways that were small and personal, knowing exactly the help I needed and not requiring me to use the words to ask. You just eased my way and my life and I miss that casual comfort the most. I think you bought flowers for me our first Valentine’s Day and a pair of pajamas a couple years ago but Valentine’s Day was never a date that loomed large for us with expectations of champagne and caviar. You always bought a card with a sweet message inside and that was enough. Most Valentine’s Days were more of the pizza and a movie at home variety, especially after we had Julia. I knew from the moment we had her that she would be your true Valentine as you loved, and I mean LOVED, being a daddy. You were fine that her first words were “mama” and “kitty cat” because your eyes were on the prize of her calling you “Daddy-O” which was how you referred to yourself and she parroted, saying in a sweet sing-song voice, “Daddy-O, Daddy-O” which never failed to make your face break into a wide proud smile. Julia would light up to see you smile at her sweet babbles and she lights up when we talk about you now. She tells stories at night as we settle in bed of tales of your life together asking for the story of your first Valentine’s Day or the stories of us driving around I-285 in Atlanta for hours in the middle of the night trying to get you to sleep as an infant. Our daughter loves anything that you are associated with and it makes me happy to recount that to her.
This morning Julia and I were looking at the Valentine’s cards pictured above that you gave her in 2011 and 2013. The Valentine’s card from 2013 painstakingly chosen with a fluffy unicorn on the front by you for what none of us knew would be our last Valentine’s together. I’m moved and haunted by the message written in your handwriting, “Julia, you will always be my little valentine. Love, Dad” Not Daddy, but Dad. A much older moniker than we used day to day and more akin to one that she would certainly use as a 10, 20, 50 year old woman. A noun that she will never use to your face because you will be perpetually “Daddy-O” to her. She never grew old enough to know you any other way. After looking at the sweet sentiments inscribed to her Julia wondered what card you would give her this year if you were here on earth and asked why it was hard to send cards from Heaven. Could an angel bring it to her? I said I did not think so but as Valentine’s Day was all about hearts, the fact that daddy is in our hearts makes today extra special. But I had to clear my throat before I answered as tears were choking my voice imagining the blessing we would feel to get such a celestial gift. I think you would send a card too if you could. You would do anything for us, our hearts desires.
Today I do not miss the chocolate and flowers because that was not the way we loved. I miss texting you that the second season of House of Cards starts tonight and talking about how early we could put Julia to bed to start watching episode after episode together because that would be how we celebrated this day. Bowls of ice cream perhaps, but both of us snuggled in the bed with me saying, “One more episode?” a mischievous look in my eyes knowing you would sigh and acquiesce. That is what I miss on this February 14th. I miss you and I miss us.