Thus, opens Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s sonnet number 43. It goes on to outline the many ways she loves. It is the question she initially asked that makes this poem so memorable at this special time of year. I began thinking about that question and what it means to me, and I find it a recognition and appreciation of the way Fran illustrates what love really is.
I do not possess a romantic nature however I possess a chivalry nearly romantic. It is not that I don’t want to be romantic, I just don’t do it well. I’m clumsy, a throwback to the old western movies, where the cowboy carries the cow-girl he just rescued to her ranch house door, sits her down on her feet, tips his hat and then walks back to the hitching post and kisses his horse. Now, that’s romance!
We’ve been married 55 years, after dating throughout high school. We both have worked hard most of our married life. We raised two girls and have six grand-children and 8 great-grandchildren, but when we were married Fran was 17 and I was 19. The odds of us being married at this juncture in life was against us. Like all couples, we have had our ups and downs, but managed to struggle through the bad times and shore up each other along the way as necessary. The good times are always fun and laughter comes easily, but on that life-long journey, you share feelings of happiness and sadness becoming friends and relying on each other. Over the years even through the salad days, I have noticed Fran does things I have never mentioned or thanked her for. I don’t know why, because I noticed and appreciated them. Maybe I took them for granted, like the cards.
I hardly remember my own birthday, but Fran not only remembers mine but about 25 more. She keeps cards on hand, addressing them in time to be mailed and received on time. She lays them out ready for me to sign. The ones to the children, grand-children, nieces, nephews and greats, she signs Love, signing her name below an upper space left blank, she reserves for me to write my name first. Signing there is an honor I don’t deserve and an expression of love I have noticed but until now have never mentioned. Thanks Fran.
I believe in every bathroom vanity in all the houses in which we lived, it was the top-drawer Fran chose to place my toiletries, razor, and other things, while she took the second drawer. This she also did by hanging my towel in the first position near the shower. That too is an expression of love and respect, gone unmentioned. Thanks Fran.
There are other things she does, like fixing mine and Uncle Woody’s favorite birthday dinner and cake, pineapple upside down cake, salmon patties and potatoes. Uncle Woody is no longer with us, but we enjoyed this meal and because of Fran, I still do. More often she cuts my slice of cake or makes my dish of ice cream a little larger, and when I don’t feel well and go to bed, I can count on waking up to see Fran looking down at me, nose to nose, to see if I’m still breathing. Fran does most of the driving, yard work, and nearly all of the house work. She volunteers with me at the museum on my shifts, and does all the grocery shopping. Love can be expressed in many big and little ways if only we take time to notice. In answer to Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s question, “How do I love thee, let me count the ways?" I love Fran the same way all the husbands I know, love their wives, every possible way. Happy Valentine Day.