I was sitting at my desk when the call came in. It was from Dave, a colleague I’d once worked with in Dallas. “Hey there, I know it’s been a while,” he said, “but I wasn’t sure if you had a special valentine in your life so I wanted to let you know I was thinking about you.”
Hyper aware of my single status at the time, for which I’d been feeling blue, the sound of Dave’s kind gravelly voice made me smile. The last time I’d seen him was a couple years earlier, when I was on the verge of a divorce and relocating to California. I still recall the way my cheeks burned with embarrassment when I revealed my news. Dave was a straight-up no-nonsense guy, the ultimate professional who always treated me with respect. He worked for the Texas Rangers major league baseball team and I worked for a cable sports network that televised their games. Together, we created a number of marketing promotions that benefited both our organizations, most significantly a fan giveaway poster commemorating Nolan Ryan’s 5,000th strikeout.
Several months before my California move was even on the horizon, Dave brought me an autographed copy of the poster. He’d gone to the trouble of having it framed, a perfect brag piece for an office wall. And he’d gone to the trouble of having Ryan, the future-hall-of-fame pitcher, personalize it for me. In black ink, on the upper right side, Ryan had inscribed my first name, followed by my last name at the time, which caused my stomach to clench. It was the first indication that I’d been in denial about my faltering marriage. Up until then I didn’t know I’d mind my married name being inked on a poster. I never knew I’d think a good thing had just been ruined.
I also didn’t imagine spending Valentine’s Day alone. When you have a built-in sweetie you often take the holiday for granted. You may scrunch up your nose at the commercialization but you still can revel in coupledom, if you so choose. You can feel pretty good for that one day.
But when you’re not part of a pair, it seems like everyone else is. You try not to dwell on this, even when coworkers dig into boxes of chocolates and promenade their flower bouquets. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, smiling falsely every step of the way. I’m fine, I’m fine you tell yourself and in fact, you truly are. But who doesn’t want to be lifted up on occasion. When Dave phoned on that Valentine’s Day years ago, there was no romance behind it, no agenda, just a fellow human checking on another. Reaching out and reaching in, and touching a cracked heart. That simple gesture carried me through and has served as one of my favorite Valentine’s Day memories. May we all strive to do the same for someone else today.