Every year for the 52 years of their marriage, my mother made cherry pie, with a lattice top, for my father for Valentine’s Day.
Served warm, with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream, of course.
Valentine’s Day was the only day of the year there was cherry pie at our house. Sometimes it was fake cherry pie, made of raisins and cranberries. I wonder what the significance of that was!
I was never quite sure what my gentle, quiet father did for my mother for Valentine’s Day.
Yes, sometimes roses appeared, but that was rare because we lived on the farm, didn’t have much money, and roses were pretty exotic, expensive, and demanded a trip to the city. What my father did, though, was ramp up the attention and the affection.
As a kid growing up, this was magical.
I looked forward to Valentine’s Day, not because of the cards I’d give as a child (and hope to get at least some back) or the teenage dance at school (that I’d painfully sit through, both hoping someone would, and hoping nobody would, ask me to dance).
I looked forward to how it felt at home – somehow, this was a day when everyone in our family was cherished. Hugs, smiles, acknowledgment, encouragement. What a feeling! I wished it would last forever.
My parents were married for 52 years. Even that last Valentine’s Day, my father in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s disease, my mother’s arthritic hands made cherry pie (albeit with a frozen pie crust), and my father gazed lovingly at her, tears in his eyes.
Over the years, I have asked my parents what made their relationship work — especially as my own weren’t always rock solid.
Their marriage was by no means perfect — they had lots of challenges, too, but somehow they managed to treat each other respectfully, no matter what.
They didn’t give me a lot of advice, but one of the keys was that they accepted each other as they were, rather than trying to change the other person.
Here are ten tips to cherish your partner. Not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day of the year.
• Don’t part in the morning without a kiss (a peck doesn’t count — we want the real thing here!). Same thing when you meet again at the end of the day;
• Think about your partner in positive terms – at least five times a day. What you love about them, how you appreciate them. Better yet — let them know! Do you like texting? Get adept at sending mini love-letters.
• Every day, do something kind for your partner…. And every day, say thank you for the kind things your partner does for you.
• Show some affection every day. Hug, hold, touch, play with each other. Every day, for at least five minutes.
• Learn to recognize that each of you is a different person. That means you see things differently, and that doesn’t mean one person is right and the other is wrong.
• Learn how to repair the disagreements. Quickly.
• Every week, have a ‘housecleaning’ to clear up any misunderstandings and relationship dust-bunnies that have accumulated during the week.
• Every week, have at least two hours of fun activity together. Without the kids. No in-laws either.
• Talk about your hopes, dreams and longings. Then work towards fulfilling each other’s dreams. It’s not fair if one person’s dreams are met while the other’s are squashed or ignored.
• Remember there’s always time to be kind!
Fran Ferguson is a registered clinical counsellor in Courtenay.