Valentine’s evening, after the rush of work and dinner was over, three little boys gathered around my chair. Caleb and Eli each handed me brown lunch bags covered in heart-shaped stickers. Inside Caleb’s was a collection of elaborate cut-out hearts, two Reese’s peanut-butter cups, a little candy bar, and a handful of those confection-sugar hearts that have things like “Be Mine” inscribed on them. It hadn’t occurred to Eli to put candy in his bag, and he doesn’t know how to cut out hearts, so instead he had cut me some slips of paper using scissors that leave a scalloped edge.
Each bag also contained a card; inside Caleb’s was a note: “Dear Daddy how has work been going? Happy Valentine’s Day. Love, Caleb.” Inside Eli’s was a stick-figure with spiked-up hair. “It’s me after I have a bath,” he explained. Isaac, meanwhile, stood watching and waiting for me to share the candy.
I have their little cards on my desk, next to my Father’s Day drawing from Caleb (it shows him hitting a hole-in-one), next to the homemade card in the shape of a birthday cake, complete with lots of candles (it took Caleb most of a day to draw and cut it out), next to a picture of Isaac in nothing but a t-shirt and a cowboy hat, holding a little cowboy gun.
His card asks, “How is work going?” My answer is that it doesn’t matter, does it? As long as I can come home to these little boys every day, work doesn’t matter one bit, except that there’s enough of it to pay the bills and keep them in candy hearts. Perhaps I should be more career-minded. But looking at these little Valentines as I type, I can’t see work as anything but means to the end. I have a feeling that on my deathbed, I won’t recall a thing about work. And I have a feeling, just as sure, that I will remember that Valentine’s night, looking down into their expectant eyes, and opening the best Valentine’s presents I ever got.
I like to linger in those moments, try to stretch them out, imprint them into my mind. I don’t want to look back on the best part of life and find that I’ve missed it. So I linger.