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Valentine Blues


"Call around 3 p.m.," Kate's email read. "Phil, the boys and I will be here all day…together…one happy family…again…where did I put that axe?

"Just call anytime, I'll be here or will be near enough that a holler out the door will bring me to the phone. I've a feeling I won't chew through my wrist bones and get free today.

"(Just kidding.)


Hmm, chewing through your wrist bones in a futile effort to avoid another snow-enforced day of family togetherness… Sounds [Insert loud sniveling noises here.] wonderful!

About eight months ago, my husband Greg's dad suffered a major health crisis. Greg's brother, who lives about an hour away in the same state, naturally chose that morning to go on a pre-paid family vacation.

Greg and I hauled our cookies up to New Jersey to help out. A few days later, work compelled me to return to Virginia. Unfortunately, Greg's dad and the New Jersey medical establishment lost no time in creating a health care version of A Confederacy of Dunces. So my sweetie stayed to mitigate the worst of the ever-expanding catastrophes.

And stayed.

And stayed.

Greg's father and brother do not deserve him. I probably don't deserve him either, but I married him, and I want him back. Now!

As an Army brat, I learned early that loving a military man -- even in peacetime -- meant long and emotionally painful separations from the better half of your soul. Believing that separation serves a greater good helps justify it, but it doesn't make it any easier. I profoundly respect and admire the couples who make that sacrifice in the name of our national defense. But I never intended to live apart from my husband. So much for dodging Fate.

To be fair, our situation in no way approaches the trials and terror of a military separation. The shooting war between the lawyers, hospitals and Greg's very own Dad-zilla is purely metaphoric. Greg and I can phone each other whenever we want. He can even make the occasional holiday escape. But I hate it all the same.

Oh, I can handle the big challenges of the suddenly single life. Demanding, emotionally satisfying and well-remunerated work fills my days. I learned to balance my checkbook at 15 and never looked back. I can relocate mice and kill bugs with impunity -- even big, nasty, flying, hissing palmetto bugs with no business breeding in northern Virginia. (Don't ask.)

I can fill the car with gas and check the tires. I can make our mechanic laugh with my descriptions of the noises under the hood.

Personal safety is not an issue. For some unknown reason, my neighbors guard me like a national treasure. (Always agree to let the neighbor kids mow your lawn and shovel your snow -- three and four times a day, if necessary. They'll come to view you as an irreplaceable source of income, and their parents will act accordingly.)

But the details of living apart just bite. I can't seem to loosen the screws to the big brass lantern that serves as our dining room chandelier. So I can't swap out the dead light bulb. The kitchen sink developed a slow leak. No point in calling a plumber. I just need to clear the filter on the faucet. But even with pliers, I can't seem to persuade the darn thing to cooperate. Where can I find someone to drive my mom to the emergency dental appointment she scheduled in the middle of a cannot-miss meeting?

Then there's that big empty bed and a snowbound house that refuses to warm up no matter how high I turn the thermostat.

I bet Kate won't be cold today. Not in her heart, where it counts.

All of us at Crescent Blues wish you a happy and heart-warm Valentine's Day. May you spend it with the people you love. If you haven't found one particular person yet, may the day set you on the road to mutual discovery. If circumstances keep you apart, may you enjoy a speedy reunion and a healthy, happy, long life. Together.

Jean Marie Ward

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