Love and Death. Another reason to loathe Valentine’s day

Roses are red, violets are blue. I hate Valentine’s day, how about you?

Some of us are alone as highlighted by Hallmark. Some of us are together and plasticize our partnership with cheap candy and forced flowers. Some of us recycle flimsy cards from our classmates.

And some of us celebrate our father’s death.


This weekend I went to a memorial celebration of a man who died way way before his time. He was a rebel and a Patriots lover. He was a polarizing figure and a phenomenal father. He made me think of my dad which is particularly difficult this time of year.

So I re-represent to you this post.

Seventeen years ago today my father died.

He has been gone for almost half of my life. Functionally it is more than that, as he has not met my husband or my children, seen where I lived, experienced things I have created and dismantled.

Thinking of him has gone from every painful minute to daily to weekly to monthly. I talk about his preference for a certain candy bar when shopping with the boys, but it is fact more than his essence. Like a memory triggered by a picture the story conforms to the the boundaries of the information in front of me, the story is about as alive and vital as the candy bar in its wrapper.

I wonder too, how much my memory of him is shaped by exactly that…memory. I revisit the same stories wearing a path in the sand. The other tales are somewhere over the next dune…hazy, inexact, blending in with the landscape.

Our relationship is like a first love perfectly preserved in the golden memory of youth. He died when I was 24, and he is not around to participate in the monotony of daily life. He was present for the transformative moments of coming of age from girl to young adult, and then gone to be romanticized.

It feels disloyal to have him fade in places and sharpen in others. Yet it is inevitable.  I look into the faces of my boys and seek him there. I see him it in a leg cross, and the crook of a finger. When Leo asks if we can build a rock garden in our back yard it is as if he is sitting at the table in front of me.

I seek the double helix in my children and remember how much my father loved spirals and fractals. Patterns of nature. His art was supposed to elicit questions of what is natural and what is manmade. I realize there is 50% of those same spirals in me. Nature and nurture both, just like his art.  I see him in the face looking up at me instead of the one I looked up to.

When I sit at the coffee shop going on too long about the disappearance of sweat pants  it turns into a performance rather than a conversation. This is how our family dinners went. He picked a topic and worked himself up to a frenzy. I feel his righteous wrath running through me. I see the slightly charmed/slightly alarmed faces of my friends me as I rant about pants and I feel like him. As the years go on I become more of a homebody…for the last 7 years of his life he didn’t leave our house.  Leaving some of the irritating details of life to Steve, like bills and cooking has echoes of his relationship with my mother. When I examine the surface of the bark of a tree, following the folds down to the root system instead of up to the leaves I have images of him, large calloused fingers outstretched to stroke the bark with characteristic gentleness. Relentless sports talk was his soundtrack, and is now mine. First to help keep him with me, now because he still teaches me in his death.

Mostly though he is alive in shadows and echoes instead of his huge brash technicolor self. A man who didn’t wear socks, who would trace my face with his sculptors fingers, understanding my features as planes of a whole instead of disparate parts to analyze in a mirror. Seated at the head of a table challenging everyone around him, eating white rice. Leaving to pee before every single dinner, although each second of the day outside of this one was his own to manage.  His time was too magical to interrupt.

Maybe he knew it would be short.

Happy Valentines day to my first Valentine.

And yours whomever and wherever they may be.

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Published by

Anna Palmer

Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble,, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at

8 thoughts on “Love and Death. Another reason to loathe Valentine’s day”

  1. Memories. Prior to my father dying 4 days ago, he had battled 12 years with dementia (although ironically that was not his cause of death!) My memories of my dad when he was ok are hazier but I’ve some stories that are still sharp in my mind that I often relate to my children, trying to convince them that grandad was once a lively soul. He was a lively one. Handsome devil too I’ve only just realised that my 19 year old son has the same smile and “look” as my dad at that age. That has given me some consolation. He was always smiling … even when he died. That is my main memory. His smile.

  2. Wow that’s a real and gritty stance on Valentine’s Day – what lovely tribute. And the peeing before every dinner – must be a man thing – my dad waits right until mum calls him to the table and he goes off in the opposite direction to pee! I am with you on the whole Valentine’s thing. My husband and I go into expensive card stores and pick out beautiful cards – we then show each other and put them back leaving the store laughing our heads off. Yes – it’s a childish ritual now. So pleased you have such brilliant memories to get you through life – and wow – a sculptor for a dad. Sorry you lost him too soon. Am not going to Tweet this because I don’t want to look like someone who has completely lost the plot regarding Valentine’s Day. Oh WTF – live on the edge!

  3. I’m not big on Valentine’s Day, Anna, but not for the same reasons you dislike it. I’m not the romantic type I guess, but if it was the anniversary of losing my Dad I’d loathe it too. My husband and I have also picked out cards and put them back on the rack! It is such fun. We pick out a serious one, funny one, sappy one and that way we aren’t limited to just one sentiment. We save lots of money too!

  4. February seems to be a month where we lose loved ones. We lost a lovely young man from church (he was 23) of Hodgkins Disease 9 years ago. A gentleman from our church died suddenly of complications of bypass surgery several years ago. I just loved how you describe your memories of your dad, “in the way (your son) crosses his legs…” beautiful. I feel like this about my grandmother who was so much like a mom to me. She died in 1979 at age 62. I still miss her after all these years. She never saw me graduate from college, never knew my hubby and kids. My condolences to you, my friend!

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