‘Tis the season when hearts and flowers abound and even the most curmudgeonly among us can be found picking out a Valentine’s Day card or a perfect red rose. We celebrate the love we have, the love we wish we had, and the promise of love to come. Even my husband and I—parents to three adult children and long past the blushing phase of our romance—have been known to give a nod to this cultural festival of good feeling. And why not? There’s never a bad time to appreciate your life mate.
When it comes to mature love, I’ve had good role models. In fact, I know exactly what my parents will be doing on Valentine’s Day. My 83-year old mother will close her therapy practice for the day and head to the nursing home to visit my 85-year old father. It’s quite possible that neither of them will realize its February 14. My mother visits my father every single day, and because they can spend time together, every day is a special occasion.
Years ago, my parents—he’s a psychologist—might have talked shop at the end of the day. Each loved the other’s intellect, and between terms of endearment and managing the household, they had fascinating discussions. Now, my father has dementia and they no longer manage a household together. But their discussions are still amazing. My mother draws my father to her by telling him stories. Together they take flights of fancy, traveling the world, living in castles and tripping the light fantastic along the boulevards of Paris. They dance together, as she lifts his arms high above the sides of his wheelchair and moves them smoothly from side to side. She sings as they move and he smiles. That smile is the purest expression of love my father can offer, and for my mother, it’s the sweetest Valentine tribute.
My parents’ love affair is different now, but the love and commitment they share remain strong. I’m comforted to think that love evolves along with our circumstances, and I’d love to hear from readers who have seen relationships thrive in the face of illness, dementia and disabilities. Stories about the triumph of love are, to me, much better than bonbons.