“So what did Spencer get you for Valentine’s day?” Nana asked during our daily phone call.

“He did the laundry,” I told her.

It wasn’t a complete lie. He switched the wash to the dryer for me. I’m not supposed to lift things after my laparoscopic surgery. With our washer and dryer stacked on top of one another, it was a huge help.

Nana gave me her usual inward laugh, a sign of disapproval. But it didn’t bother me. In the seven years of our relationship, I’d dare to say this was the best Valentine’s Day yet.

“Happy Valentine’s Day!” I exclaimed before Spence could hit the snooze button. I was anxious to give him his gift: tickets to see Billy Joel at Kauffman Stadium in September. If you know Spence, you know this is a big deal.

Although he was groggy, he was psyched. I mean, he smiled. And he never smiles before 9 am – unless, of course, breakfast is served in bed.

But then he got dressed and went to work. No breakfast. No surprise. Nothing. I didn’t think much of it.

Reila wore the purple heart dress my grandma mailed her with a pair of jeans, so I took a picture and texted it to the family. Baby jeans are the cutest. Then it was my turn to get dressed.

Every Valentine’s Day (as well as a few other select, special events), I pull my gold and ruby tri-heart necklace out of my jewelry box to wear. It was a gift from my unofficial godmother, Julie – my late mom’s best friend.

“The three hearts represent us,” she said when she gave it to me. “You, me and Marcy (my ma).”

White blouse. Red cardigan. Jeans. And then my second surprise of the day – gold, white and red-heart patterned Hello Kitty clogs. A sore subject of six years.

Five months after we met, Spencer and I celebrated our first Valentine’s Day together. He bragged that whole week about getting me the perfect gift, so my mind started racing with ideas. Lingerie and roses? Love letter? A song written just for me?

Spence knew I liked paisley patterns, all things kawaii and shoes. So when he saw these Hello Kitty clogs online, he knew they were the perfect gift.

Except…they weren’t.

When I opened the box and saw them there, I said nothing. I didn’t mind Hello Kitty and I liked the seventies-style, Powerpuff Girls reminiscent hearts. It was the mere fact they were clogs.

After a few minutes, I let it all out. My exact words might have been, “I hate them,” to which Spence lashed back that I was just too “lame” and scared to add something so bold to my wardrobe. Obviously, I wanted to prove him wrong so I the shoes sat in my closet while I vowed to come up with the perfect outfit for them someday.

Someday.

Someday. . .

We learned a very Gift of the Magi-esque lesson our first Valentine’s Day. Surprises suck. Just tell people exactly what you want. Then, you’re less likely to be disappointed.

Anyway, fast forward to 2018 when I finally decide to match my plain red cardigan with a plain white blouse and bada-bing, bada-boom – we have the second most awesome Valentine’s Day surprise.

When Spence got home from work, Rei and I were all dressed up. He didn’t audibly take notice of the shoes, so I followed him into the bathroom and made wisecracks until he said, “Oh, nice.” I entertained the idea of visiting his parents or ordering carry-out, but he made it abundantly clear he didn’t want to leave.

So pajamas it was.

I knew something was wrong when he said he wasn’t hungry for dinner. We made some popcorn and watched a few episodes of Shut Eye – the second season – while cuddling Reila.

And then we got to talking.

We’ve lost three loved ones so far this year – and we’re only two months in. Well, four if you count the removal of my ectopic pregnancy. There’s no closure and time only dulls the pain. But it never fully goes away.

So Spence opened up and I listened.

We’ll never stop missing them. But at least we have our memories and each other to hold and share for the rest of our days. And that’s all we need – love.

I think Spence felt better after getting the sadness off his chest. Knowing what was on his mind definitely eased my mind. So it was a bittersweet Valentine’s Day. A perfect Valentine’s Day, unlike any other. It was the first one shared with our daughter.

You don’t need roses or a box of chocolates to know your husband loves you when his actions prove it every day.

So as the night came to a close, I unveiled Spence’s third Valentine’s Day present. But I’ll leave that one up to your imagination.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Oh, and Spennie. You may be the only person reading this, so I wanted to leave you with one of my favorite lyrics from the piano man himself:

“I said “I love you.”

And that’s forever.

And this I promise from the heart:

I could not love you any better.

I love you just the way you are.”

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