My husband, Peter, does not believe in Valentine’s Day. I mean, he knows it is a thing. It’s just a thing he prefers to ignore.
“Stupid!” That is Peter’s verdict.
Peter takes offense whenever there is a big marketing effort aimed at getting him to buy things in order to show affection. He feels this way about Christmas, believing it has become too commercialized. He feels this way about birthdays, insisting that the day of his birth is nothing to celebrate. Buying gifts for Peter is pretty easy because he doesn’t want any.
But Peter is one of the most generous people I have ever known. He never hesitates to pick up the bill. He is always a generous tipper. He contributes to organizations he believes in all the time. It just bothers him when he is expected to come up with a gift. He finds it stressful and annoying, and so I learned, long ago, that he would not give me gifts on so-called special occasions, and I wouldn’t try to figure out what he wanted.
I am very glad I don’t have to guess what Peter wants.
Peter has very particular tastes, and he enjoys further refining those tastes. If Peter buys a new shirt, he can tell me more about that shirt than I have ever known about any piece of clothing I own. It will almost certainly be sun-resistant and probably bug-resistant and possibly provide protection against a thermonuclear attack. I don’t even ask. This is equally true of every gadget he uses and every pot and pan in our house. Not having to figure out what Peter wants (or do that kind of research!) is a great relief.
Instead, I try to be nice to him.
I try to remember when I am stressed or bothered that none of these feelings ever have anything to do with him. If my mind is filled with things already, I try to make room and listen closely to whatever he is telling me. I try to stay out of his way when he needs his space. I try to keep him company when he needs it.
And Peter is always giving me gifts. They are just not the kind that seem like presents.
I hate the light in the kitchen of the little place we rent in Mexico. It is bright blue-white.
“I feel like we could be doing elective surgery in here!” I tell Peter.
But the ceilings are high, I don’t have a ladder and we really do need light in the kitchen. The light does not bother Peter. He does not seem to notice the difference in light color the way I do. This is just one of the many ways (I am sure) I seem unreasonably fussy to him.
“Turn the light off as soon as you are through!” I always tell Peter, in an unnecessarily crabby voice.
But then, one day, I walked into the kitchen, and Peter was cooking in a bright, amber-colored light.
“You changed the bulb!” I said in delight.
“I did,” he said. “It wasn’t as high up as I thought.”
I don’t know how Peter got up to the ceiling to change the bulb. But everything else, I know.
He changed the bulb because he understands me. He changed it because he wanted me to be happy. He changed it because he loves me, and this was his Valentine gift to me.
“Thank you,” I said.
“You’re welcome!” he answered.
And both the kitchen and my heart were bathed in a warm light.
Till next time,