So today is Valentine’s Day. A day that our culture has told us is about love and hearts and Cupid and chocolates and other gifts for those we love.
We learned early on in kindergarten to draw hearts and make cards for our parents and siblings. Then as we got older we wrote notes to members of the opposite sex that urged the person to “be my valentine.” This was all very exciting in 7th and 8th grade. As we aged and found the loves of our lives, the day took on a special meaning. A time to remember the romance that brought us together.
So we marked it with jewelry and flowers and hotel getaways and candlelit dinners at nice restaurants. We also take time to send valentine wishes of good will to others we come in contact with in our daily lives.
Some years ago in this newspaper, Islanders could take out classified ads expressing their love for special persons. I remember it being a page or so and I also remember trying to figure out who wrote the ads. There was also a big event at the Legion Hall called the ”Cherry Pickers Ball.” It was around Valentine’s Day and also George Washington’s birthday. One explanation about the name was that it came from George cutting down the cherry tree. I just do not know but it did provide a mid-winter interlude around the day of love.
In some circles Valentine’s Day is a great day for a wedding. But sometimes the weather does not cooperate. I have a friend who was a bridesmaid at a Valentine’s Day wedding and wound up with a serious sore throat. She was wearing a strapless gown and spent too much time on the beach waiting for the photographer.
This year I hope to get handmade cards from my grandchildren. I have saved all the ones that they’ve made over the years. And I’ll send them all flowers -— I hope they get there in time.
But what is the origin of this special day?
There are many different versions floating around the internet and hard facts do not seem to exist. I learned from one source that the St. Valentine’s Day feast day was removed from the liturgical calendar in 1969.
One of the legends says that Valentine refused to convert to paganism and was executed by the Roman Emperor Claudius II. Prior to his death, he became friendly with his jailer who had a blind daughter. The story goes that Valentine was able to restore her sight before his death.
Other stories maintained that Valentine was a Roman priest who secretly married soldiers in love. Soldiers were forbidden to marry because married men did not make good warriors. So this was all done privately. Valentine wore a ring with Cupid on it and that helped soldiers recognize him. It’s also said that Valentine handed out paper hearts to remind Christians of their love for God.
Middle English poet Geoffrey Chaucer of “Canterbury Tales” fame is credited with one of the first Valentine’s Day cards.
A stanza from a poem by him says:
“Saint Valentine, that art full aloft,
Thus singen smalle fowles for thy sake;
Now welcome summer with tye sunne soft,
That hast this winter’s weather overshake.”
It’s in middle English but the point is made — spring is coming and people are more apt to think about love at this time. Please take note that I am not a Chaucer scholar but do like the whole idea of celebrating love.
That’s why I say “Happy Valentine’s Day to all!”
Meanwhile over at the Senior Center, Director Laurie Fanelli gave me a Valentine’s list of things to remember when loving someone with Alzheimer’s. These included being well educated about the disease and being realistic in your expectations. Refrain from arguing with your loved one even when frustrated. Always provide good nutrition. Give your loved one independence when possible and have lots of fun.
What’s particularly important is dealing with your loved ones in the here and now. Don’t try to go back to the past. Additionally it’s important to set aside some time each day for physical exercise. Also try to understand your own emotional and physical limitations. And remember that an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is not a death sentence. Many with the disease live more than 20 years following diagnosis.
On another subject, the AARP driver safety program will be offered on Tuesday, April 9. Call the Center at (631) 749-1059 to register.