You know when you can no longer fit your clothes - as opposed to when your clothes no longer fit you, but that is a different story for a different day - but when your clothes no longer fit into your bottom left hand dresser drawer, you know that there is a problem. What in the devil is in that drawer anyway? It’s your dresser. You’ve owned this dresser for the last, do we want to think about age here? Okay, upper level math skills being tasked here - years married, plus the apartment, minus the year in storage during the teeny tiny apartment year or does that count since the drawer was probably technically used then also? Well, let’s just say that the drawer most likely has been in use, in some capacity for about thirty years now, without revealing the narrator’s age.
There are scratches on the pale red pine surface that the dust conveniently hides. The dings on the corners are reminders of the few moves it has made until it landed in its special spot for most of its lifetime. The round knobs on the drawers turn and fall off sometimes if you pull too hard; reminiscent of when the children were young and used to play twisting games with them. The drawers all lay crooked in their nooks as if they have given up trying to look straight and they no longer properly close. But that bottom left hand drawer is the one in particular looking quite ajar.
It’s a Saturday morning. In February. In Central New York. And it is 2 degrees outside. Yes, you read that right. Two. Degrees. But don’t worry, with the windchill, it feels like -22. There is a high pitched hum and then the furnace clicks on blowing warm air throughout the house. The furnace, it seems, has been running non-stop all night. It’s time to make sure the humidifier is running or you’ll all dry up like raisinettes. And, change the filter on the furnace. It seems one task always leads to another. With a sigh it is time to face that bottom left hand drawer. Why isn’t it cooperating any longer?
It takes more than just a gentle tug on the round knobs to pull the drawer open. The top layer is exactly what you expect: tee shirts. This is where the tee shirts go. You know those not worn very often tee shirts? Come on, admit it, you all have these shirts. Kiss Me I’m Irish, Wine is My Valentine, and most recently 2-22-22. And the shirts that you can only wear on the weekends, I’m Grumpy: Deal with it, I’m sorry Did I Roll My Eyes Out Loud? and concert tee shirts from bands that you saw in high school and you really should just toss, but you can’t bring yourself to get rid of them because they conjure up happy memories. Does anyone remember Huey Lewis and the News?
Just how deep is this drawer? So once all the tee shirts come out, even the ones hiding in the back and the ones hiding behind the drawer - no wonder the drawer won't close properly! There are more memories.
Cards. Hand-made cards. Dozens of cards. They are all wrapped up in pink paper and tied up in a pink bow. Oh. Your stomach drops. Why were these even saved. Were they important at the time? Yes, it is important to remember that people cared and that people do care. And, that you are important. You matter. It is a tangible reminder. And these cards were stored away in a drawer to be forgotten. You were not forgotten. And, people still remember.
People still ask you even today, six years later, about your cancer. Your daughters talk about your breast cancer all the time. You know it weighs on their minds every day when they put their bras on and take them off again. Every day, twice a day. They know that theirs could turn enemy too and be sliced off at any time. That’s six breasts that you worry about and pray stay healthy since you first heard those words six years ago, “You have cancer.”
Has the cancer been passed on to them? With a gasp you realize you haven’t taken a breath in several minutes and set the cards on the floor beside you. It’s okay. Breathe. The BRCA test showed that you didn’t carry the gene. The girls should be okay. You send another prayer up that this holds true.
Your mother didn’t have the gene either.
With a sigh your eyes turn back to the drawer to find drawings from your daughters. I love you mommy written in sprawling handwriting on the drawings. Their names written on each, some you wrote the dates on to match up the ages. Good thinking, you silently clap yourself on the back.
There are some hand made Mother’s Day cards, first teeth, last teeth, and even a swatch from a first hair cut from one of your daughters but it isn’t labeled. So much for the clap on the back. Early celebration you think, with a smile.
Even still, all of the treasures sitting here now in your lap make you yearn for their little voices and little bodies to come sit in your lap to play, listen to a story, and sing songs together just one more time. They all grew up so quickly.
Your eyes move back to the drawer again. What is that in the back? It can’t be, but it is. Every year when you were little your father did something special for you. How is it that you were just a small child yesterday? When did you get to be old? When did your parents get to be grandparents? How did this happen?
You reach into the drawer. Your fingers touch the velvet surface. You pick up the cardboard box. It is in the shape of a heart. You stare at the red box. The heart is about the size of your hand, but seemed so much larger when you were small. It smells like hugs and laughter, and dad’s smile and home. You open it up to find white walls with chocolate stains of yesterday’s sweetness left behind.
Every year, without fail, your dad was your Valentine. He was your first Valentine. He loved you first. He loves you the most. He loves you unconditionally and without fail or judgment. He was, is, and always will be your Valentine.
He has always been there for you. He has picked you up many times over the course of your lifetime. You could fall to pieces because you just crashed your grandmother's car or you just crashed your tricycle. Either way, he has been there for you. When you failed out of college, he was there for you. When you needed relationship advice, he was there for you. When you had a financial question, he was there for you. When you bought your first house, he was there for you. When you chose your college, he was there for you. When you walked down the aisle, he was there to hold your arm and ask you if you really wanted to do this. He has always been there. He is the best, truest, and most perfect Valentine.
When was the last time you called your dad? This drawer hasn’t closed properly in years. It can wait.
It’s time to go call dad.