Valentine's Day is coming. I know because WITF (accessed by internet) told me so. I always have trouble remembering which precise day is Valentine's: I know that it is on one side or the other of February 13, because I know my sister's birthday.
I'm not sure what the day is for really. In Manitoba it marks a necessary break from the deep freeze of the True North Strong and Free (and cold). Perhaps most fundamentally the day is not so much for lovers (at least that, of course: but so much more) as it is for family. In our case, lovers and family go together.
I remember coming back from Zimbabwe 32 years ago. People asked what I hoped to do, going home (wherever home is) after three years teaching at Matopo. I gave various replies, including, "Get married". I look back and wonder at my naivety, the audacity to think that one could simply look around and find someone and "get married". I did. Mother invited three young women to lunch, all from our church, all with connections to Africa, students at nearby Goshen College. I already knew all three, but over time drew close to Lois. I remember playing the romantic lead in "Brigadoon": the director and cast were convinced that Laura and I would take our on-stage roles into off-stage romance. But there was Lois, and in July 1977 we were married. She was and is my only romance.
I think of another romance, so many years ago. John and Emma, written up by my sister. A story bracketed by two walks: the last along the same railroad track as the first on the day before she died. They remembered how so many years before John had clambered down the embankment to pick a flower which she admired. Our father's parents, romantics in their own way.
Then David and Dorcas, our parents: together a few months less than 50 years, until mother died. On this day it is hard to believe that was almost 16 years ago. Their courtship was long distance, both in geography and in time. My memory (which of course only covers the stories I was told: I was not present) says that they were engaged for three years. If I am wrong, I will be corrected!
I wish I had the story also for David and Cora, mother's parents. I know only that this young man from German background connect to the Brethren in Christ married a young girl, also from German background, but Lutheran; so that she gave up jewelry and fancy clothing to marry him and join the Brethren.
Lois' parents? Alvin and Maxine Heise: engaged before World War Two, but married after. In the weeks before Dad's death he and mother described their courting and early family life. Dad grew up on the farm in Kansas; so did mother. They were to take over Grandpa Heise's farm when they got married. But World War Two came; the draft board refused to give him an exclusion for farming: that went to his father. But Grandpa Heise's health was not good enough to keep farming. During the war he had to sell the farm, and when Alvin and Maxine got married, the farm was gone. So -- as a second best alternative to farming -- Dad went to medical school, became a doctor, and practiced family medicine for 30 years in the same small town in Ohio. I always assumed that he chose medicine first. but he and mother meant to farm.
Today we have sons: four of us. Valentine's Day includes them. We have a fifth too -- a virtually-adopted son from close Zimbabwean friends, but he took the picture. Romantic Love (eros), Family Love (storge): we celebrate all kinds of love. (Eventually I'll add love of pets: our dachshund, Fritzie, is a member of the family.) I said a few posts ago that we show our love for humankind in our love for our country -- that's the beginning of community; I could add that family is the best laboratory for community. At least, it has been for me.