We are standing in the kitchen glaring at one another.
I remind my Valentine that he’s officially taken over dishwasher duty, which means loading and unloading the old workhorse; that it’s now 11 a.m.; and that still, the clean dishes remain lodged inside while the dirty ones languish on the counter.
I avoid mentioning that in MY dishwasher-loading/unloading era, the deed was always done early. These are fighting words on a Sunday morning. We both know it.
But somehow, seconds later, we burst into laughter at our own foolishness. It’s Sunday - — the sun is shining — and what difference does it really make in the long run that the dishwasher isn’t unloaded or that the platters aren’t in perfect order?
At this stage of our union, we finally understand the futility of dumb arguments…and while we still have them, of course, we end them sooner than we used to.
Score one for very married Valentines.
Forget the plump red satin heart-shaped boxes of rich chocolate.
Forget the love poems penned in passion, the wild embraces, the waltzes under crystal chandeliers.
For some of us, Valentine’s Day, even in all its commercial glory, remains a reminder that in ordinary life, it’s the little stuff that counts.
The notes left on the kitchen table in haste, signed with a nickname only we recognize…
The way he remembered to pick up the exotic cheese I love, even though it means going miles out of his way…
The fact that when it’s raining and we’re going out, he pulls the car right to the kitchen door…
Yes, those trifles count dearly in this season when we’re reminded that love changes everything, conquers all, and makes the world go round.
I agree with all of the above. But I also know better.
In the autumn of a long and committed marriage, we celebrate love in quirky, not just cosmic, ways.
I make chocolate pudding the old-fashioned way, the cooking-stirring-scorch-the-pot method, when I detect a certain sag to my beloved’s shoulders, a certain weariness in his walk. And the fuss feels both right and rewarding.
On mornings when we both awaken not like songbirds but like terminal grouches, we deftly avoid conversation. And yes, it’s a loving, not hostile gesture.
And in the sleepless dark, when the demons come, I know that I can reach over to a man who is soundly sleeping, gently wake him, and find myself in the homeland of his arms.
We haven’t waltzed under a chandelier of any description in years, but every now and then, when the mood is right, my Valentine and I will dance around the kitchen to the strains of the radio, preferably to an old Frank Sinatra ballad. It’s so corny that it’s embarrassing…but we don’t care.
And some of our best moments — moments that bind and bond us and make our hearts leap — have come when we’ve stood in a silent, dark room and watched a grandchild sleeping.
It may not be classic romance. It may not meet the rapturous hype of magazines that speak of love as primal and wild, sensual and captivating.
But for two late-middle-aged Valentines, those bedside vigils are an affirmation of loving long and well — loving right into the next generation.
So when the dishwasher eruptions come — and they always do — we rely on the best gifts of Valentinehood to get us through:
And a love that’s old enough to have a burnished glow, but not too old to sparkle, and to make two late midlife Valentines enormously grateful for the gift of one another. ••