It took me a very long time to realise that romantic love was the socially-preferred love of choice to celebrate on Valentines Day. Growing up it was my father who championed the holiday. Year after year, he would come home from work on Valentines Day, still dressed in his shirt and tie, with three large hand-picked bouquets of flowers to distribute: one each to my sister and I, and the largest one for my mother. He would say the same thing each time; “These followed me home”. It wasn’t until high school that it even occurred to me Valentines Day was ‘supposed to be’ about the love shared between a couple. In my mind was just Dad’s holiday – one which highlighted his quirky and loving-yet-predictable character.
When Valentines Day eventually included boyfriends, Dad’s flowers still appeared. Even when my sister and I grew up and moved out of the house, the flowers didn’t stop coming; Dad would just change the wording slightly with cards which read “These followed YOU home”. My first year living in New Mexico, I had to visit my local post office to collect my Valentines Day package from him because they wouldn’t deliver it to my door. Driving home after work that evening, with the corner of the box of flowers in my back seat visible through my rear view mirror, I remember smiling to myself because it was the first time that it was actually true- the flowers really did follow me home.
Dad’s annual ritual was extended three times more, when each of his granddaughters were born. I have photos of Nell attempting to put her first bouquet of Valentines Day flowers into her mouth and of Isla bopping her sister on the head with a flower from her first bouquet.
I’ve lived through thirty eight February 14th’s, one of which my husband proposed- talk about celebration of romantic love! Each one, whether spent with a romantic partner or not, has always included Dad’s flowers and little note with the same reassuringly familiar joke tucked inside. Until this one.
Today, I am grateful that my dear husband has not tried to fill this now empty space with flowers for me; the weight of its absence honoured. Instead, two beautiful bouquets of flowers await our two beautiful daughters this evening after work. I wonder what his catch phrase will be.
A father’s love ripples on….