A few fears ago, I decided to sell my sleek looking convertible. The younger woman, who answered my ad, sounded pretty excited about taking the car for a spin. We agreed on a time and place to meet, as I wanted her to test drive the vehicle to make sure it was a true fit for her needs. Her dad came along for the ride, anticipating exchanging money for the car. One glance told me, they were a very closely knit family. He was from the old country. And he clearly adored his adult daughter.
She climbed into the drivers seat like she was a princess on a velvet cushion. Her eyes were filled with excitement as we made our way down the freeway. As we drove along, we talked, as strangers often do when they have first met. She had felt at one point, she would never marry, as the right guy simply did not come along. Then, one day, when she least expected it, a handsome man became part of her life. They married almost immediately.
The following year, a miracle happened. She became pregnant with the child, who would change her whole life. Her parents were deliriously happy and the newly married couple could hardly contain their excitement. Somehow, deep within the heart of the soon to be mom, she had a feeling that she would have a Down’s Syndrome baby. In her heart of hearts, she had always known this would be the case. Sure enough, the baby was born. And it was clear that their little bundle of happiness had fulfilled her mother’s expectations. She was special, indeed,very special, in every way.
The grandparents were bursting at the seams, filled with love for their precious gift from heaven. The infant’s mom and dad were every bit as exhilarated. They named her Joy. For this family, she represented the very best of all things we strive to maintain. She was sweet and innocent, with a smile that would light up any room. As she grew into a toddler, the family loved her more and more with each passing day.
As we pulled up to the insurance company to exchange paperwork for the car, I saw a delightful man, beaming ear to ear, wallet in hand. He opened the wallet and could hardly wait to show me what was inside. Photo after photo, of their beloved Joy. He explained to me that after many years spent in prayer, they had been sent this wonderful gift from heaven. She was the love of his life and their promise of a life of love and happiness.
I walked away that day with a renewed faith in the world. Never have I seen a family so truly and completely engulfed in their love for a single soul. And for the first time, I really understood what the word special was meant to look like from a distance. Not different or lacking in any way, but completely and totally beloved by everyone who crossed their path. And that is about as special of a gift as anyone could ever hope to receive.
Every man has one holiday they consider the most important of all. For Ray, that day was Feb 14th. He and Eleanor had spent their first Valentine’s day at home. An oncoming snowmobile traveling too fast, had caused a collision. His bride’s leg was broken in several places. As their marriage was new and being thrifty was considered to be a good thing, they set in place a tradition for all holidays that would follow.
Each year Ray would choose from his small collection of cards. Eleanor would do the same. They would look for a card that expressed how they really felt about each other. Rules like that sometimes inspire the best of behavior. Year after year, they opened the same cards from each other, marking only the new date and perhaps a small note. Decades came and went and they continued to really enjoy their little tradition.
Eleanor loves candy. Not just any candy will do. She really, really loves Sees candies. It did not take long for Ray to figure out what made her eyes sparkle and shine. Each year he lovingly chose her card and made his way to stand in line for the beloved box of Sees. Life being what it is, Ray passed away at the end of June. His 84th birthday would have been tomorrow. Needless to say, today promised to be a very tough one.
At Christmas time, Eleanor decided to set aside half her box of candy for Valentine’s Day. She also knew she could not be trusted. In an effort to save the candy from herself, she wrapped the box in enough sealing tape to look like Fort Knox. She hid it away, out of sight and patiently waited. Valentine’s Day could not come soon enough. !!!
I awoke this morning to my mother’s smiling face with a devilish grin that told me she had been up to mischief. As I walked into the living room, I noticed a large Valentine’s card standing in front of the framed picture of Ray that graces the living room table. After a few moments my mom appeared and announced that she had gotten a Valentine from Ray !!! She had also chosen one from her to him. She was eagerly anticipating digging into the box of candy she would open after we returned from the movies. Of all the movie choices she could have made, she picked “The Vow”. Our movie was a real tug on the heartstrings. We returned home just in time in sneak a few pieces of candy before dinner.
Ray loved daffodils more than any other flower. In the fall, mom decided to plant hundreds of them in his honor. She hoped when spring arrived, there would be a huge splash of bright yellow in front of the house. It was all for her husband of three and a half decades, who loved the bright yellow rascals waving in the breeze. He had never managed to buy any for himself. We planted and planted in hopeful anticipation.
Today, as I looked out the window, I saw that the bright promising crop has a leader. One single flower is determined to win the blooming race. Right next to it is a close contender, just like two old friends standing, admiring the sunshine together. Of the hundreds waiting for more sun, only the two were determined to bloom in unison.
I fully expect to see Ray’s first daffodil reaching for the morning sun, blooming in full happy birthday splendor. And, if I am not mistaken, by the time the sun sets tomorrow evening, it will be joined by its perennial partner. Within a short time there will be a huge wave of bright yellow happiness for all to see and enjoy. And there is no doubt in my mind that Ray would be beaming ear to ear, knowing how much he was loved and how well and truly he is missed. Happy birthday Ray…for all the wonderful things you did, for being such a family guy…and for being our mom’s forever valentine.