Every year I take a moment and read the Valentine’s Day card my Dad sent me when I was a freshman in college. In February, 1988, when mail wasn’t snail mail and it was the cheapest form of communication with anyone outside our campus, my sweet Dad, missing me, sent me a Valentine’s Day card.
He never sent cards, never wrote letters. To anyone. Ever. My mom did all that, all the time. I have boxes of handwritten notes and cards and letters from my sweet mom, dating back to my first communion. Always signing ‘Love, Mom and Dad.’ Even though each and every note from my mom is special in its own way, this one and only card from my Dad stands out, because – it is the one and only.
My mom loves to tell the story about dropping me off at school nearly 30 years ago (OUCH!) and feeling good about my choice, feeling good that she could handle the swells of emotion, and looking forward to our new long distance relationship as adults. She felt good until she couldn’t find my Dad when they needed to head back from Peoria to Chicago. After searching a bit, among the throngs of college co-eds, she saw him, walking away, in tears.
She says she was dumbfounded – he was the tough one, she the emotional one – what happened? We don’t quite know, he never spoke of it. He clearly missed me. My Papasita to his Corazon. So it is with great awe and love and reverence and tenderness that each Valentine’s Day, I pull out this silly Shoebox greeting card, right from it’s envelope, donned with his scrawl, the stamp he bought and stuck on the paper, and his writing, in Spanish – just for college aged me from him – at home.
He signed the card, ‘Tu Viejo’ which meant, to him and me – ‘your old man.’ And then he wrote, ‘I love you so much,’ and drew a smiley face, if you could call it that. No emojis back then. Just a hand drawn smiley, the smile an actual straight line. Had he ever drawn a smiley face before? Had he ever drawn one after?
I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think so. I do know the smiley face drawn just for me, in the one and only Valentine’s Day card from my dad 28 years ago, is a powerful gift, still giving me a hug and a smile in words, love from the past, and a smile to carry me along.
Happy Valentine’s Day lovelies! Send someone you love a card – you never know how long your words will remain. Do you have a card you read and re-read? Let me know in the comments below!
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