“Lucy, you know damn well that husband of yours loves you like no man could ever love a wife. If mine loved me half as much I’d feel like a princess.”
“I know I know. But come on Helen, is it asking too much to have him remember just one damn Valentine’s Day the way it’s supposed to be? We’ve been together for eight years and I have yet to get anything special. All I ever get is a cheap card and the same old fashioned box of chocolates. It’s just another forgotten Valentine’s Day to me. And does it look like I could eat another box of candy? I’m too damn fat as it is.”
“If he’s giving you a card on Valentine’s Day, isn’t that remembering Valentine’s Day? Besides I’ve seen those cards you’re complaining about and there’s nothing cheap about them. There’s something special about everyone of them if you’d take a closer look. I know you keep them so go look.
And if you’re too fat, that’s not his fault. We see each other everyday and all I ever you do anymore is sit around drink tea and watch the television. One box of chocolates in February doesn’t make you fat for March through January. If you’re not happy about your weight, get off your ass.
If you want Ricky to give you something different for Valentine’s Day, give him some hints.” Helen was getting tired of trying to make her point so she went a different direction. “What did you get him last year?”
“Nothing. Why should I? It’s the husband’s job to give his wife a Valentine’s to remember.”
Helen looked at her for a second wondering what happened to the kind person she grew up with. She introduced her to Ricky. For just a moment she almost regretted doing so. She knew they would hit it off and they did. If there were any truth to love at first sight, it was Ricky and Lucy.
Helen met Ricky in college. He tutored her for a few classes in her junior year. They quickly became close. He was an only child whose parents were killed by a drunk driver a few years before. Helen was also an only child. After she heard Ricky’s story she thanked God that her parents were still alive and well.
For them, it was like two long lost siblings finding each other again after years apart. Their relationship grew stronger as the school year went on. So much so that Helen talked Ricky into going home with her for the Christmas break. He had planned on sitting around campus all alone, do a little studying and maybe see a movie or two.
She refused to let him stay by himself. His time with her and her parents had been the best time he has had since his parents deaths. Helen’s mom and dad, Alicia and Frank, took him in as family as quickly as they would a new born baby. They all knew Ricky was a special person in heart and soul. Before the break ended Ricky was calling them mom and dad.
He had a new family and a new home with his own bedroom. After years of loneliness, he felt he belonged again.
The summer break was a start of a wonderful time in his life. He didn’t think it could get any better, but it did.
Helen mentioned her childhood friend many times to Ricky telling him he was going to love her. If only her and her family were home for Christmas instead of visiting her grandmother. Something was telling Helen that Ricky and Lucy would make a wonderful couple. Between Christmas and the summer break Helen spoke to Lucy constantly about Ricky and what a great guy he was. Finally in June when school ended, they did indeed get together.
It was like fireworks going off for the young couple. By the end of summer they were engaged. When Helen and Ricky went back to school for their senior year, Lucy went with them. They all shared an apartment together. Lucy worked a full-time job while the other two finished their studies. After graduation, Ricky and Lucy married.
That was six years ago and it seems some of the spark has left the marriage.
Ricky had a brilliant mind and excelled in his job as a mechanical engineer for a defense contractor. Helen continued her job but only at part-time. Hence her sitting around the house a little too much. She also began to take Ricky for granted thinking his earnings were for her benefit alone. She developed the taste for the so called finer things in life.
She pushed for a bigger house even though they had no kids. Expensive cars, jewelry and clothes became the norm. Ricky never thought anything of her spending thinking if it made her happy then it was worth it. Her desire for extravagance carried over to Valentine’s Day as well. She wanted more. What ever more was, she wanted it.
Her conversation with Helen this morning was her way of trying to get Helen to help her. She had hoped to convince her to intercede and tell her brother to buy her an expensive gift to prove his love for her. Instead she became frustrated because it didn’t work. What she got instead was Helen telling her to take a closer look at some old cards.
Lucy was cold to Ricky that night. As Valentine’s Day grew closer she stopped talking to him all together. She knew damn well all she was going to get was some lame card and an old fashioned box of chocolates.
The phone call came late morning on February 12th. Ricky was on the production floor assisting with the final assembly of a prototype engine he designed. It was a dual fuel power sourced engine designed to increase power and range of standard diesel engines. Assembly went as expected and the engine performed well meeting all established guidelines while operating on its primary fuel source. However, during the switch over to its secondary fuel, the electronic fuel exchanger exploded.
The exchanger was built by a subsidiary off site. Unknown to Ricky the exchanger mounted on his prototype engine mistakenly by-passed final quality assurance measures. If it had been properly inspected and tested it would have been found to have the igniter wires reversed.
Ricky was standing closest to the engine and caught the brunt of the explosion. He along with two other men were transported to the trauma center. Ricky was still in surgery when Lucy made it to the hospital. His injuries were serious. He suffered burns to his upper torso and a fractured skull from a piece of shrapnel.
Ricky’s family and his in-laws were with Lucy when the surgeon came out and described the seriousness of his wounds. He was stable but in critical condition. They could not guarantee that he would survive the night, but if he did his chance of survival was good. The continued worry was the skull fracture and the resulting coma. Even if he did wake up they were unsure of permanent brain damage. It could be days before they know anything.
Tears fell from Lucy’s eyes while she listened to how badly her husband was hurt. The nurse walked Lucy and the rest of the family to Ricky’s room in the ICU. Lucy held on to Helen’s hand tightening her grip with every step.
When they walked in his room and pulled back the curtain, the reality of the situation hit them all hard. Most of Ricky’s head and face were wrapped in bandages. What wasn’t covered still showed signs of the explosion. The monitors beeped with every heart beat and breath he took. The nurse told his family he was stable and all they could do at the moment was wait.
None of Ricky’s family could hold back their tears as they stood over him. Was this the end of the man they all loved?
A few hours passed when both sets of parents headed home. They would come back in a few hours with a change of clothes for the girls and give them a short break.
The first night began a revelation for Lucy. She sat next to her husband looking at him wondering if she had a future that included him in it. She talked to him asking him to wake up. He needed to wake up. She needed his love. He had to wake up so he could show his love to her again.
The morning after the accident the president of the company came and sat with Ricky’s family. Mr. Porter was very fond of Ricky. He sat and prayed with the family staying most of the day watching over him. He told Lucy of his many talks with Ricky and how many times Ricky stated how much his wife meant to him.
One those conversations was just last week. It involved the upcoming Valentine’s Day. For Ricky the holiday was very special. As the last blood member of his family, it was up to him to carry on a family tradition that is generations old. He noted to Mr. Porter he hoped God would allow him a son some day so he could teach him to carry on his family heritage. A heritage based on love.
Mr. Porter could say no more about his talk with Ricky. It was forbidden for the woman to be told the message behind their Valentine’s Day tradition.
More hours passed as Mr. Porter stayed with Ricky leaving for only a short time to make sure the other two men who were injured were taken care of properly. He relayed their prayers for Ricky’s recovery when he returned.
He paid his respects to everyone and left telling them he would be by the next day.
After he left Lucy thought of his words. Ricky told the president of his company how much he loved her and how important his family’s Valentine’s Day tradition was. What kind of tradition? Ricky never remembered Valentine’s Day, did he? All she ever received from him was a card and a box of chocolates. What’s so damn important about that?
Lucy felt a hand on her shoulder. Turning her head Helen was standing over looking down. “You need anything?”
“You know where I keep all the cards he’s given me. Will you please bring them to me?” She nodded and left to retrieve them.
The time Helen was gone Lucy spent looking at herself and wondered what would become of her if her husband died. The thoughts of material possessions never entered her mind. She was barely thirty years old and may end up being a widow. No longer having Ricky by her side, being able to feel his touch, to hear his voice or watch him sleep in their bed after making love frightened her.
It wasn’t much longer before Helen came back with a small box containing the cards from six Valentine’s Days since they were married. Taking the box from Helen she began to wonder why she kept them if they held so little value to her. Maybe they did mean something to her after all.
She opened the box and immediately noticed the her favorite scent. Since when did he spray her favorite perfume on the cards? It was the bottle that caught her eye at first. They were only dating a few short weeks when she spotted it. The perfume inside was so pleasant and subtle she had to have it. She rarely wore any other. He remembered.
She next noticed the cards were made with fine linen paper layered and trimmed. Noticing slight imperfections, Lucy thought the paper was a low end bargain value make. But the weight and feel made that impossible. Why would a machine leave imperfections on each edge? Also, calligraphy adorned the sentiment inside every card noting a special moment in their marriage of that year’s card.
It quickly became apparent that every card was hand made by Ricky with an incredible attention to detail. He lived his life in similar fashion.
Inside the rear flap of the last card there was a slip of paper. It had a thank you from a chocolatier in Switzerland. The mention of 75 years of his family’s purchases of it special Valentine’s Day gift box of chocolates shocked her. She remembered the words of Mr. Porter and Ricky’s family tradition.
Lucy realized Ricky never forgot Valentine’s Day. She did! She forgot the meaning behind the day. The day gives a person another opportunity to show their love to a special someone.
And she understood Ricky’s family tradition. The men put so much effort into making the card for Valentine’s Day because they loved their wife in a unique and special way.
The thought of never having another Valentine’s Day card terrified her. It is a symbol of his love and she decided to fight for it. She would no longer concern herself with unimportant “things” bought with cash. She wanted the intangible. She wanted love.
Lucy looked at Ricky wrapped in bandages, hooked up to tubes and wires and felt the excitement like it was the first time they met. Fireworks went off in her chest just like when she first looked in his eyes. She wanted that feeling for the rest of her life.
Exhaustion must have over taken her. When she woke up she found herself with her head laying on the edge of the bed and a light blanket covering her shoulders. Helen was asleep in the chair on the other side of Ricky’s bed holding his hand. It was obvious Helen refused to let her brother slip into death without a fight. The next day being Valentine’s Day, Lucy was hoping Ricky would wake up and profess his love for her. The new found romantic side of her prayed it would happen, but it didn’t.
Three day later, Ricky started showing signs of life. Little movement in his extremities and facial twitches occurred more often and with less time in between. By the fifth day he opened his eyes and spoke in broken words and phrases. It seems he did suffer some limited brain damage.
The shock to his family was immediate. Lucy was strong in front of her husband but broke down outside his room. If it wasn’t for the family’s strength, she may not have made it through the next few days. They knew he was a strong man and if anyone could work themselves out of this kind of set back, it would be Ricky.
Further testing showed the damage less severe than first worried. Beyond his speech, he suffered some long term memory loss. His short term memory was perfectly fine. He remembered how he was injured and eventually figured out what caused the explosion. There were only certain aspects of his life that were forgotten. Parts of his childhood were lost possibly never to return.
He was released from the hospital after a few weeks. His speech therapy started soon after and within a few short months it was difficult to tell he had a problem. His memory loss was one area of concern though. The doctors and his family tried presenting him with memories of his youth hoping to trigger a memory. They were safe to not overload him.
Lucy never left his side during all the days following the accident and the months after. She was his strongest supporter driving herself to the point of exhaustion. The family stepped in when necessary to force her to rest.
Ricky was able to return to work under a limited basis after he was cleared by his doctors. Lucy was hesitant at first but within a few days she noticed the improvement in Ricky’s attitude. He enjoyed his work and he was glad to contribute to the company again.