The Life and Times of Florence Knitingale

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Valentine

I met Mr. K on December 9, 2003. I was 38 years old and he was 42, and we had both been in relationships before. We had no idea where this might be going or even, if the truth be told, where we WANTED it to go. I was cautious about love, as was he. But he was smart, funny, handsome, kind--all the good things, and we kept seeing each other. If this was a Hallmark movie, we would have most likely walked hand in hand into the sunset at this point. It wasn't.

In early January (the 2nd, I think) of 2004, there was a huge ice storm. Mr. K was living on 5 acres of property and upwards of 50 trees came down in the storm. His yard was covered in branches and whole trees that had been uprooted. His shop had been hit by a tree and thousands of dollars worth of damage had been done. The place was all but buried in various lengths of sticks and logs. On Jan. 3, he called me to say reluctantly that he enjoyed my company very much but, regrettably, would not be able to see me much for a time, until he got the mess all cleaned up. I bristled at this, and I pointed out that whatever else happened in our budding relationship, I already liked him and wanted him to be my friend. Friends help each other, right? I would come help.

Let me give you some perspective on the size of the mess: we worked side by side every day of every weekend for the next 6 - 8 weeks. During that time, our "dates" were over the bonfire in the yard or the slimy pile of logs that got rained on after we piled them up. We ate on the fly most of the time, not over candlelight unless the power went out. Sometimes we worked for hours without even talking because we were on opposite sides of a huge yard. Every one of those days I had my hair scraped back into a ponytail and I wore old jeans and dairy boots and generous helping of slime and dirt. Good times. In fact, it was the best courtship I've ever had.

The dairy boots were a gift from him during that time (I think it was Valentine's Day, actually) and I squealed with as much joy as if they were diamonds. (Wet feet are not a small thing over a period of hours and days. Believe me.) I remember sometimes watching him while we worked. I loved his attitude and his ethic. I loved that he didn't whine but just kept picking stuff up. I loved that he always found a way to solve whatever problem we encountered. I loved that he didn't baby me or try to shoulder most of the load--he pretty much assumed I could do anything unless I told him different. I loved that he could laugh at himself when he screwed something up. Truth be told, I loved HIM. And I'll put in here really quickly: my longheld (and somewhat unpopular this time of year) opinion is that love at first sight is an insult to love. Love is something you work for and earn together.

I learned a great deal during those months.
1. When faced with an insurmountable pile of sticks on the ground, the best thing to do is to go out there together, bend over, and start picking them up.
2. Beauty means a whole lot of things...and most of them wouldn't cut it on the pages of the fashion magazines.
3. Earning love is hard, dirty work. And also infinitely wonderful, worthwhile work.
4. If you can eat dinner at a French restaurant together in your finest clothes and enjoy each other, so what? If you can eat lukewarm canned soup together when you're filthy and so physically exhausted that chewing seems out of the question and enjoy each that's something of value.
5. Love is a verb.
6. Whatever you build, builds you. This is also true for relationships.

Mr. K is my heart. He is also my rock and my friend and my intellectual stimulus and my branch-burning partner and the person I can't wait to tell things to. My teenage self would have said that love was romance and a handsome man holding you tenderly and running in the sand while the music swells. My older self says this: love is what keeps you picking up the sticks when your back aches and your hair and feet are wet and you don't smell all that great and you remember your last hot bath warmly but vaguely and you've picked up a million of them and there are at least a million more. Love is what you build and earn and do.

Happy Valentine's Day, Mr. K. I love you more today than I ever have. I still treasure those dairy boots...and every single minute we've built together. You are still my heart....and my yard full of sticks...and everything in between.


  • At 3:06 PM, Blogger Marianne said…

    Beautiful and oh so true.

  • At 3:51 PM, Anonymous Jill said…

    wow. you make it hard to be cynical on this day.

  • At 5:31 PM, Anonymous MonicaPDX said…

    Couldn't have said it better myself. Good work, you two.

  • At 5:51 PM, Blogger Peg said…

    This is difficult to write, as the tears are lying on the lids!
    Working together over a 'dirty' job is a great test of how things will go in the long run.

    Some of my DH's and my best memories are from times that we worked together and we have been married for 46.5 years and hope for many more.

    What's wrong with lukewarm canned soup when you eat it with a person who is just great to share it with!

  • At 7:07 PM, Blogger Kitty Mommy said…

    What a beautiful tale! How lucky you both are. However, I have a suspicion it may be a little more than luck. As little as I know about you, it seems that you are both pretty special people who deserve each other!

  • At 11:39 PM, Anonymous angie Cox said…

    That was lovely Florence. When I met Jeff he was the most imoverished student I'd met so we didn't go out much or buy expensive things. He got into patchwork and when I visited him in Manchester we'd sew together .A walk in the park was wonderful and now I have really learned "In sickness and in health" he has supported me through some pretty bad times with my anxiety .We were talking about the sad amount of break-ups just before I read this .

  • At 12:09 AM, Anonymous MonicaPDX said…

    You damn betcha.

  • At 1:02 AM, Blogger Jo said…

    I'll never tire of hearing how your love makes me happy for you that you have found the one, although please explain...what on earth are dairy boots?

  • At 4:49 AM, Blogger Robin said…

    What a GREAT story! So wonderful and so very, very truthful!!

  • At 6:08 AM, Blogger lisalouryan said…

    Speaking of love, what about this quote by Amy Bloom?:

    Love at first sight is easy to understand; it's when two people have been looking at each other for a lifetime that it becomes a miracle.

    My husband and I have been married almost 22 years and we have been through the muck and he is still my hero!!

  • At 8:38 AM, Blogger beckie said…

    Aww..How great of a story that is.

  • At 11:53 AM, Blogger Lynn said…

    Yes, absolutely, and AMEN! This is exactly what I loved best about being married to the children's father, back before I had to choose between marriage and integrity.

    One of you cleans up the barfy kid, and the other one cleans up the barfy bed. And nobody keeps score.

    This is what I was hoping for with Brother Abacus, but alas! not to be. Having experienced it, however briefly, I'll settle for nothing less.

    Good thing I didn't read this until the day *after* V-Day, or I'd be sniffling with everybody else.

  • At 12:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    ah! does he still give you dairy boots?

  • At 9:06 PM, Blogger AlisonH said…

    Whom you serve, you love. Serving each other by being kind. By working together.

    Beautifully written post. Thank you for that.


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