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Happy Valentine’s Day – finally

Jeffrey Churchwell Published on 11 February 2013

I just figured out why my beautiful wife keeps me – an overweight, underachieving shell of a man – around.

One reason is because I’m the only earthling in the household who can carry the 80-pound bags of salt downstairs and empty ’em in the softener. The other is because – now – I really try to do somethin’ for her on Valentine’s Day. But other than these, it’s a Sherlock Holmes mystery to me as to my value in her life.

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Mornings for my wife, Linda, begin the same way her evenings end – with my Neanderthal snoring. At 6 a.m., after I stink up the bathroom, she subdues a sigh as I rainbow the sink with red-and-gray face stubble. A little later, I take the rest of the coffee, kiss her face as she manages eye-liner, then callously leave early for work before our 1-year-old is awake, changed, fed or dressed.

Then, after a nine-hour to 10-hour hiatus in her own world of work, Linda comes home to me – Mr. Wonderful. I demand, “What’s for supper?” as she carries both groceries and offspring into our home.

But a complete slacker I’m not; later, I do serve myself my very own plate – as she feeds Vinny. I even get up for salt when it ain’t already on the table – as she feeds Vinny. And, as all gentlemen do, I graciously cover my pie-hole when I burp – as she feeds Vinny.

If I have a chivalrous moment after the dinner that my beautiful ball-and-chain prepared, once every two or three weeks I’ll give our little Vincent Lombardi Churchwell a toy-infested bath. But most nights, she washes the dishes – then Vinny – as I play solitaire on the computer, trim my toenails that I can reach and watch sports until my waning wife can prune the two little wee-wees on the outskirts of my feet, then pick them off the living room carpet.

Once she tucks Vinny into bed, she makes my healthy lunch and readies my morning java and pays the recent bills and irons our work clothes and picks up my dirty socks and ...

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Wait! Don’t think that she does everything. I do take the garbage and recycling out to the curb almost every Tuesday.

So, why does my wife, a former Miss Wisconsin who earned her masters degree from North Carolina State, put up with me? It ain’t because I make a lot of money – I’m a teacher. It ain’t because of my looks – I’m the “Before” model in lots of those men’s hair and weight loss commercials.

It must just be because she actually, really, truly loves me – and because Valentine’s Day is comin’ up soon.

But, before you can understand her newly acquired appreciation for February 14, I gotta let you in on the second half of the story.

Unfortunately, it was this same type of selfless concern exemplified just a few paragraphs ago that both got me into trouble and, at the same time, taught me one of the best lessons of my life. (Maybe you guys can learn a thing or two from this as well.)

It was two years ago, on Valentine’s Day of 2011, that this very lesson began to take shape. Here I was, thinking I was all romantic as I forged my own egotistical expression of the meaning behind this day for lovers. Without disclosure to Linda, I made dinner reservations at this fancy restaurant with a fancy French name that, for the life of me, I’ve forgotten.

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As well, I bought Linda one of those frilly negligee things in a store that my ol’ man would’ve never been caught in alive. Additionally, I scammed a dozen roses and a $5 scented Valentine’s Day card that played a salacious song with lyrics written by a guy who must have gone to school to write such.

I shaved for the second time that day, sprayed on my best cologne and concentrated on nothin’ else but me and what I wanted for Valentine’s Day.

As the waiter escorted us to our remote corner table as requested, I pulled her chair out for her. Heck, I thought I was in like Flynn, ya know? But I guess that possibly, maybe, most likely I played what I thought to be my trump card a bit too early.

As if she was my slave, I barely waited for the food to be ordered before I placed onto the table the frilly thing wrapped in a frilly box which was in a frilly bag, all with a frilly grin on my face.

Let’s just call that move a “technical error.”

She looked at the frilly bag. She looked in the frilly bag. She didn’t even have to look into the frilly box.

She then looked at me. But it wasn’t one of those frilly looks, ya know? Her normally beautiful face looked kinda like what you’d see on an angry, scowling jack-o’-lantern from last October. So, besides the words that she uttered when she ordered the most expensive dish on the menu, the only thing that she said to me for the rest of the evening was, “Really?”

Determined, I had a whole year to think about my next Valentine’s Day endeavor. I figured that the 2011 plan A wasn’t so good, so I opted to create a 2012 counter-approach. But just what would that be?

With nowhere else to turn, I meditated to God. After I prayed for my family and prayed for my state and prayed for my nation and prayed for my world, I asked Him for a modicum of advice a couple of days prior to February 14.

Then, mercifully, a romantic epiphany flipped the switch in my simple, chauvinistic mind and turned on an idea as bright as a replaced light bulb.

The only similarity to my disastrous scheme from the year before was that I didn’t disclose any plans to Linda. Brilliantly, I took advantage of what a winter Wisconsin gives – periodic doses of five to six inches of new snow.

Simultaneously and surreptitiously, I hired a neighborhood babysitter, but note this: I didn’t get my wife any flowers or a fancy, music-playing card or one of those frilly things – definitely not one of those frilly things.

Instead, I found an old and blank card, made some hot apple cider, heated some soup, packed some spoons and bowls and crackers, and dashed us abruptly out the door holding my wife’s unsuspecting hand as the $6-an-hour teenager walked through the door.

Slipping through both unplowed streets and slow-falling snow, we drove to the park where I used to court her so many years ago. To the sound of public radio music and the hum of blowing heat in our idling car, we burned our tongues with soup, cider and small talk. And, this time playing the right card at the right time, I gave her that old, blank card that I had inscribed right after I called the sitter.

As she opened it on a snowy Valentine’s Day evening in a warm car in an isolated park, I was glad that, earlier in the day, I had consulted the expert on love – God – for inspirational words. With passion in her voice and tears in her eyes, by the dashboard light Linda read aloud God’s word from many years ago.

Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking ...

In the card, I’d copied those last four words twice in big, black lettering: “It is not self-seeking.” She really, really liked it; I just wish I could’ve claimed those words for my own.

To this day, I’m still underachieving and overweight. But, because I got a little inspiration from the Man above, Valentine’s Day has suddenly become my fantastic wife’s favorite holiday.

Heed my words, boys; heed my words. PD

Jeff Churchwell is a Wisconsin-based freelance writer and a perpetual milk-drinker who thrives on 1 percent to this day.

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