I have never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day – too much pressure. Especially those dread times when a relationship is strained – you know that special day is coming and fear it will be awkward at best and painful at worst.
Equally paralyzing though, are the good times. I mean really… how do you adequately thank someone for loving you for say… 28 years? In our case, exactly 28 years. Our very first date was Valentine’s Day 1982 and we were married seven months later.
What gift, poem, song, or gesture is up to the challenge of honouring someone who so wonderfully mothered three tremendous kids and whose natural and delightful way with your two grandchildren is nothing short of remarkable?
How do you honour someone who believes in you more than you do yourself, and whose support of your vocation was, and is, given at great personal cost?
How do you celebrate beauty that after 28 years still leaves you weak in the knees?
Valentine’s Day can’t possibly deliver on its promises.
All that being said – I think we just had our best Valentine’s ever. It has been such a long time since Nance and I have had any decent time alone together. Nanci was with our daughter Sarah for the month of December, helping her receive our new grandchild Pax Carlo. (I’m now starting to call him Pax Lardo because he seems to be a bit of a butter-ball compared to his skinny older brother who is composed of chicken wire and coy.)
Returning from her month away, Nanci immediately started a new teaching job which demanded a few weeks of concentrated time and effort. Then Sarah and family came to visit for a week, after which my touring season started up again as I headed out to California for an eight day tour with Nanci staying home to mark end-of-term exams and get report cards ready.
When I returned from California I knew we had to find somewhere to go, just for a couple of days, to break the coolish pattern of negotiation/business relating that often results from sustained seasons of busyness. We needed a chance for that easy affection, which drew us together in the first place, to assert its rightful place.
I found a hotel resort up in Hecla Island (a few hours north of Winnipeg) that happened to have a two-day Valentine’s package offering a great room, several therapeutic spa pools, a magnificent restaurant and a restful break from the relentless demands of managing home and vocation.
Awesome – it was just awesome! We watched two movies and enthusiastically followed the Olympics. We spent hours in the mineral waters and hot tub, steam bath and Nordic-plunge pool. We spent lazy mornings reading. We enjoyed magnificent food, champagne, uninterrupted conversation and sleep. And somewhere in there, the stony knot of task and duty readily gave way to tender fondness, laughter and love. We really couldn’t afford those two days, but I’m so glad we ignored restraint and reason.
Now it’s back to reality. And honestly? – reality is not so bad. We’re both blessed with work we enjoy and find meaningful. We do love our home, family, neighbours, friends and happily accept the obligations such privileges demand. Our own relationship will continue to glide and bump along as relationships always do. But happily tucked into our memories is one more little escape into rest and tenderness which can be drawn on for strength when cacophony bellows. And bellow it will.
Twenty-eight years ago, I couldn’t begin to imagine what married life would be like three decades down the road. I couldn’t imagine the joys and terrors child-rearing would bring. I couldn’t imagine the profound struggles, the wounds and the wounding, the need for healing, the disappointments and the great and many, wonderful surprises. But after all these years I can say some simple things. Marriage is good. Covenantal love is good. Sometimes, in the highly polemicized public debates about rights and definitions, we lose sight of the fact that the essence of the thing itself is profoundly good. And I feel extremely grateful that I have been blessed to know and give witness to the bright goodness of something even though its shadow is undeniably part of the human experience. Thanks be to God.
BTW – I’m singing several times at a weekend couple’s (marriage) retreat at the Banff Springs Hotel April 30 – May 2nd. I’ve never been part of such an event before but I know the organizers very well and it promises to be a great weekend for those who are able to take advantage of it. Here is a LINK to the event but details are limited for just a couple more days. Next week we’ll post all the particulars. It would be fun if some of you could join me there. Ironically, you won’t get a chance to meet Nanci as her work makes it impossible for her to attend.
I’ll leave you with a song I wrote years ago which recounts feelings and thoughts I had on my way back home after a six week tour away from my beloved wife.
Click song title to listen:
[wpaudio url=”https://blog.stevebell.com/wp-content/uploads/04-Alone-Tonight.mp3″ text=”Alone Tonight” dl=”0″]
Music by Steve Bell | Lyric by Steve Bell and Byron O’Donnell
Still a ways to Manitoba
Been awhile since I’ve been gone
Been a day since we were talkin’ on the phone
Still ahead, the longest distance
Just the last few miles to go
Lord I pray, there’s only one smile at the door
Will we be all alone tonight
Just to be what we both know is right
Will a candle be burning, will love have a chance to ignite
Will the rest give us just one more day
Lord, I hope she has planned it that way
All I want is to know, will be be all alone tonight
If our friends are all there with her
oh the night will never end
and I’ll just have to smile and try to act surprised
I suppose we’ll laugh at all my stories
We’ll be glad I’m home again
But I’ll just die each time I look into her eyes
Oh how I miss her
I can’t wait for that moment at the door
Just like I rehearsed it
Over and over