Romance shows up everywhere at this time of year, from Paris to pawn shops, from Cozumel to Costco.
Ah, yes. Valentines Day is looming ahead.
Sometimes, though, romance can be tough to define. Its in the eye and heart of the beholder.
Recently, our daughter-in-love Kim asked one of those wonderful, discussion-triggering questions over the dinner table: Whats the most romantic thing anybodys ever done for you?
While the following wasnt my off-the-cuff answer, it should have been: Husband Richard is a loving, passionate, tender, gallant, dragon-loving knight. He has a gentle soul, charming wit and a fierce sense of responsibility for those he loves.
During our nearly 35 years together, hes created many delightfully romantic moments.
His marriage proposal, however, wasnt one of them.
Wed met through our dogs, which certainly was individualistic. My sons and I had adopted two abandoned Shetland sheepdogs, and we wanted to know more about the breed.
I spent lots and lots of time trying to track down sheepdog experts.
In an amazing sequence of events, I found one in Reno. Richard and his late wife had raised Shelties; he still had three at home. He was very knowledgeable. We chatted for an hour or so about dogs and kids and life. Later, after Id finally tracked down the heritage of my new pets, we corresponded a bit.
A couple of weeks after we met, Richard invited me to a dog show in Oakland. We did the show, then lunch, then dinner together, and I invited him down to Cambria, which hed never seen.
He accepted effective immediately, because he was on a weeks vacation from his middle-management job at Harrahs Club.
During his visit, we all bonded. Immediately. Completely. Emotional Super Glue.
Three days later, he proposed.
His words? Not so much.
Im going to marry you, he said firmly.
Do I have a choice? I asked, somewhat in shock.
Yes, he replied, Tomorrow, next week, next year. But its going to happen.
It did, too, 81 days later on Jan. 2, 1978.
THAT was romantic, too.
The honeymoon? Not so much.
We left Reno in a blizzard, heading for San Francisco. Then, KCBS Radio told us The City was being pounded by a fierce wind-and-rain storm that was due to stick around for a while.
I love that town, but vacationing there in a windswept downpour? Nah. Not romantic. Instead, we slogged south to Cambria, where my mom was to host a wedding reception for us a few days later.
Now, thinking back the three decades-plus that have ensued, I recall so many romantic times. Some were classic Hallmark, Valentine and all. Some were Husband Richard-quirky, and some were so vividly unusual and loving, theyll glow in my memory forever.
For instance, how about in a hospital?
Id had unexpectedly complex surgery that left me with a lot more stitched-up spots than I (or the doctors) expected. After exactly one day in recovery, they sent me home.
Yes, that was exactly where I wanted to be, but physically, I just wasnt ready yet. I became so sick, so fast, that the medics ordered me back to the hospital for strong anti-nausea drugs and round-the-clock supervision. I didnt want to go, but I did.
Stalwart Husband Richard stayed by my side for hours, being my advocate until about 10 p.m., when he knew he had to go home to tend our dogs. Even so, he didnt want to leave.
He couldnt even check in with me. This was before cell phones, and the hospital switchboard closed down at bedtime.
Putting on a brave face, I urged him to go home. But inside I was feeling so forlorn, so lonely, so sick. I didnt know what was wrong, and I was scared.
Yes, I cried after he left. I felt so very alone.
Less than two hours later, as I was trying in vain to sleep, he came striding back into my room like the true Sir Galahad he is. I hadnt fooled him one little bit.
I couldnt stay away, he said. I had to be here with you.
THAT was romantic.
Happy Valentines Day, honey!