By; Alyssa F. McCall
A friend of mine once wrote and I’m paraphrasing; coffee mugs hold a sentimental connection to a time, place, or loved one, possibly too much for a rational person to claim but she claims it, and so do I. Are we alone in this claim or might you say the same thing about some coffee mug or knick-knack? If you do, we welcome you to our world.
My sentimental coffee mug was given to me by my husband, twenty years ago on our first Valentine’s Day as a couple. It pictures a person up on a ladder filling the mug with hearts and states something to the effect of, “May you have enough love, so you never run low”. I used it so much over the years it has become chipped and in danger of breaking. If my memory is correct, and I hope it is, I stored it away for safekeeping.
I’m not attached anymore to Valentine’s Day being all about the love I have for my spouse and the love he has for me. Nor am I attached to doing something with him on that day since we still date each other on a regular basis. As a matter of fact, we haven’t celebrated Valentine’s Day on the 14th since our pre-marriage days. While I am writing and revising this piece, I feel a shift in how I view this holiday.
It’s becoming a reminder of the people I hold a deep, heartfelt appreciation for. People who have made a significant impact on my life, outside of my incredibly supportive, silly husband. After all, love is not reserved for just partners or spouses. Valentine’s Day, and any day for that matter, doesn’t have to hold the meaning society says it does. We can morph and choose any meaning we want, which things holds significance for us, or none at all. This holiday, if I can’t express it personally, I will think fondly and with gratitude for all of the people I love who have become etched in my heart.
One of those people is a man named Victor, the relationship we shared, and our fondness of a large, red, plastic Coca-Cola cup one might expect to find in an 80's pizza joint or Italian family restaurant where I grew up. I forget now how the red cup came to be in my possession. Maybe Vic was right, and I originally swiped it from him without realizing it. What I know for sure, is that I had used it as a water cup while driving down to Pueblo from Ft. Collins to visit my family. When I left, I forgot to bring it back with me to Ft. Collins. I would not realize this until my next trip, and we would disagree on who the cup truly belonged to. He could have just been teasing me but for some reason I decided I wouldn’t steal it back. I would just occasionally threaten the possibility to tease him and he’d say it was his, mainly because it would ultimately incite my stubbornness to insist the cup was mine. Victor was, technically and legally, my stepdad. Our cup war was just a little facet of how our relationship played out over the years, in a fun and joking manner.
I took back possession of the cup after Vic passed away two years ago this coming March. It is used regularly by me, my husband, and our boys. Having it back means he will no longer call to ask how I am and make sure I’m not being lazy. I’ll no longer hear him call me "Miss Lys" or read it misused with an apostrophe after it; i.e. Lys’. He’ll never try to pull another April Fool’s joke on me like the time he and my Mom hid my car down the street and woke me up early on a Saturday to make me think somebody stole it. I’ll never hear his laugh in person again. Although, I can still listen to his voice anytime I want thanks to technology and old voicemails. I hold those even more dear than the red cup because they provide a good laugh whenever I’m feeling down or miss him. That might be considered crazier, but I’m older now and care less about what other people think.
The cup is a more present reminder, something tangible and in my face almost every day.
More than these fond memories I have of Victor, what I’m reminded of most is the person he became for me. Emotionally and spiritually, he was the Dad who was able and willing to spend time with me, who showed genuine interest in my life. He showed up and stepped in to be a constant father figure I could always count on. It’s probably why I value quality time as one of my main love languages over any words someone could ever express to me. For the time my Dad Vic was in my life and for the last few years of his, I am most grateful. Especially the last three and a half years which our family wasn’t sure we were going to get. This relationship and others I hold dear, are the ones I hope to somehow honor and show my love for this Valentine’s Day. Who might you be able to share love with this holiday, be it parent, friend, spouse, child, or someone else?