I do not love Valentines Day.
My reasons have very little to do with single girl bitterness or middle school memories of a Valentines box more empty than I would have liked.
I don’t hate the idea of a day set aside for the celebration of love. But I think Valentines Day the way it is celebrated today, lies to me about what to expect from love. It only skims the surface of what love is. And if it went deeper, I think we would be surprised at what it would find.
Here’s what I’ve seen of love. In my own life, I’ve seen the unrequited kind. In my parents, I’ve seen the raw fight through disease. We don’t really know what it is, but for the past eight years my dad has been rapidly losing weight.
This, along with other symptoms that resemble something like Parkinson’s, and my mom is left to care for him as he slowly withers away.
This kind of love is bitter, painful and a kind of beautiful you want to read about but never experience.
For my dad, each day is an event. He wakes up and tediously executes daily tasks with the speed of dial-up. Despite this disease, he chooses joy. Then there is my mother, who must choose patience. Both of them do this as an act of love.
According to Valentines Day, all they need is a few coconut filled chocolates.
Dozens of doctors have diagnosed my dad with various diseases, all circling around symptoms of Parkinson’s and muscular dystrophy. It has been a process of elimination, which will never provide an accurate enough answer to diagnose a cure, or a timeline.
My dad’s disease is stealing him from me, and there is nothing I can do to stop it.
The disease is ambiguous, offering the menacing possibility of genetic passage into my own muscles. We do not know, will never know, until/if I also shrivel.
My eyelids are quite droopy.
I inherited this wonderful trait from my dad, which we have since learned was the first sign of his disease. It could mean nothing for me, or it could be a nasty little foreshadow into my future.
I am afraid. And I face all kinds of questions like, “if I really loved a man, could I allow him to commit to me?” Or, “could I ever love someone enough to carry them through disease?”
The secret lie I seem to believe is I will not be willing to marry someone and serve them through disease. And even worse, I believe no one would be willing to do this for me.
This is the love that I am scared to experience.
I picture my own diseased body fighting for dignity in restaurants and punching the pity out of stranger’s eyes.
I fear I will not have the patience my father has, or my mother, to love family members who cannot handle the disease. I fear I will not have the strength of character to accept and ask for help from my spouse.
Despite the fact he can no longer climb into the attic to retrieve a box, or lift myself, my sisters, or my mother, my father hasn’t given up. He’s still contributing to my family in a powerful way.
That’s real love. That’s the love we should be celebrating.
I do not love Valentines Day, because it does not celebrate real love.
C. S. Lewis’ stepson Douglas Gresham said, “The curse of humanity is that every human relationship ends in pain.”
Love is not pretty, and it is not pink.
But my hope is that some day I will not be afraid to give love and receive love.
[Photo: Kristiane Webb]