Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Valentine's Day..what it means to me.
Mark is traveling this week so I went to small group alone tonight. I don't mind going alone, but I felt bad because he missed group last week and he will be missing it next week too. Some of the ladies were empathizing that it must be hard with him gone so much and 3 kids plus he will be out of town for Valentine's Day. Hmm..that part doesn't seem to bother me at all. Truly. So I was thinking about this on my drive home...Valentine's Day. I know I used to care about it. We used to have big date nights out, and we always exchanged gifts. When I was working, he always sent me flowers at the office and I can remember putting a lot of thought into creative gifts like "love coupon books" or special scrapbooks for him. And as I was driving home, I realized the shift. I know exactly when it happened..it was 6 years ago this month. My father who I loved more than anything on this earth had been battling cancer for over a year when he had a terrible fall that resulted in a serious head injury which put him into a rehabilitation facility. He was never quite the same after that and when I visited him, I wasn't sure if he really knew who I was. Mark and I packed up the kids and traveled down to Florida in February of 2006 to meet up with my brother, Kip and his new family. The plan was to spend time with mom, get to know Kip's fiancee, play with the kids on the beach and ofcourse visit dad in the rehabilitation center. I remember driving over there several times and finding him asleep, unable to visit. One evening my brother and I drove over there to find him awake. He couldn't really talk to us but we passed a balloon back and forth with him because the physical therapist said it was good exercise. It was sad and awkward--unfamiliar. Our visit was a short one and I never really felt like I had that quality time or even a quality moment with my dad. On the day we were leaving, it was Valentine's Day. We had the kids packed up in the car, suitcases loaded and were headed to the airport on a tight schedule. Mark knew I had to stop by to say goodbye to my father on our way of town. I bought an enormous, almost obnoxious heart balloon that said "I love you" and carried it into his room. I was expecting to find him asleep again. Instead, they had him dressed and out of bed, sitting in a wheel chair looking out his window. I greeted him with a big smile, gave him the balloon and told him "Happy Valentine's Day." I remember feeling very guilty as I told him that I had to go because the family was packed up in the car and we had a flight to catch, but that I would be back to see him again soon. I was speaking slowly and with a raised voice, not sure if he understood me or even recognized me. When I was done speaking, he did something that he hadn't done in months and it shocked me. He extended both of his arms out wide and motioned for me to come to him. I did and he pulled me onto his lap in a huge embrace. He whispered, "I know." And I couldn't let go; I just sat there like a child sobbing on his shoulder. I couldn't speak. And there was NO question that he knew who I was. I was his baby girl; his Annie and I had come to say goodbye. I will never forget that moment and I do believe now that he knew it was the last time he would see me. Walking out of that place was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. He died exactly one month and 4 days later. The human mind is fascinating and when I look back at how I handled the following Valentine's Day 2007; it shocks me. I threw the biggest, baddest party I had ever thrown in my life. I put weeks and weeks of work into it. I literally transformed our basement into a "Newlywed Game" set complete with theme music, question cards, and big prizes. I invited our closest couples and we had a BLAST. Make no mistake--it remains one of the funnest memories of my life. The following year though, I didn't throw that party and in the subsequent years, there was never any motivation to do it again. Looking back, I think I did it that first year because subconsciously I needed that enormous distraction. I don't regret it. It's what I needed at the time and you do what you have to do to get by and survive the pain. But the point is...Valentine's Day has never been the same for me. When I think of it, I just see my dad in his wheel-chair holding that ridiculous balloon and I remember our goodbye. I truly didn't know it was the last time I would see him. So..I celebrate Valentine's Day for my children and we have had a lot of fun making some really creative and unique Valentines this year. As for Mark, it doesn't matter that he won't be here to celebrate with me. Our celebration comes in all the little things, like the 3 emails I've received from him today:
From: "Prenni, Mark A"
Date: February 8, 2012 6:00:31 PM EST
Taking off for Vegas in a minute. I Love you.
From: "Prenni, Mark A"
Date: February 8, 2012 7:45:09 PM EST
Just landed. Headed to dinner straight from airport. I'll call from the hotel.
From: "Prenni, Mark A"
Date: February 8, 2012 7:45:27 PM EST
....and I love you.
I don't need a fancy dinner or a box of chocolates or overpriced flowers. I just need him to "get me" and he does. He knows that Valentine's Day isn't what it used to be for me and that's okay. I know how much he loves me and how much he loves our family and I know that he would trade a business trip to be HOME with us any day of the week. I am blessed to have that and I am grateful for my life exactly as it is. But I do miss my dad...so much!!! Happy Valentine's Day in heaven Daddy from your biggest admirer!! xoxo
Posted by prenni5 at 11:19 PM