Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Operation Valentine: Oregon Veterans Home

I hate Valentine's Day. I mean, want to crawl under a rock every time the date comes around and not come out until it has passed hate it. As far back as I can remember, something horrific has happened on that date. Most notably, my childhood dog having a seizure and having to be put down the next day, but there have been others just as traumatic, and some even more so. And they always seem to happen on Valentine's Day.

Lest you think I am a bitter old spinster, let me explain my take on relationships, the expression of love, and Valentine's Day. I have been happily married for nearly a year and a half to a man I have been madly in love with for nearly five years. He sends me flowers and cards at random times and when I need them the most. That's how it should be as far as I'm concerned.

My experience and observations show that Valentine's Day is an especially stressful time for men with significant, and not-so-significant, others as our society has conditioned them to believe (and not only them, but the women they are attached to) that their other expressions of love are not as worthy as the diamond necklace, flowers, and chocolates that MUST be bought on Valentine's.

Now, let me insert a disclaimer, if you are not showing your SO that you love and appreciate them day in and day out and make a special effort at least once a month (or even every other month) to demonstrate that in some way, maybe it is important that you at least honor the day set aside for love. My opinion, however, remains that demonstrating love should not be done out of obligation but out of selflessness and a desire to do so. It's just tainted otherwise.

My ramblings aside, I will now get to the point of this post and an explanation of the above picture. A couple weeks ago I received an e-mail saying "Calling all Oregon Angels!" and it was a request from Soldiers' Angels, a nonprofit that I rate as my favorite and consider Patti Patton-Bader my personal hero, to make and deliver Valentines cards to veterans at the Oregon Veterans Home in The Dalles.

I was so delighted to have a mission that in a state of quasi-hypocrisy, I agreed to take part and made 95 Valentines cards and anxiously awaited the day I could deliver them.

This year was quite possibly the best Valentines I've had in a long while. (My husband, who always enjoys giving me a bad time about my detest for Valentines, even though it's to his advantage I feel this way, accompanied me on the trip and was the perfect accomplice. He even folded the enveloped around the cards that didn't quite fit in them. He's such a sport.)

We spent almost three hours visiting with the veterans who live in three of the four wings (the Delta Wing is reserved for the Alzheimer and dementia veterans and I, shamefully, am terribly uncomfortable in those types of situations). We heard stories of the building of the bridges and dams across the Columbia. One gentleman, who was visiting his wife, told us about growing up in Hood River, picking cherries, and riding his bike up and down the hills before bikes had gears. (As a side note, I believe they are both veterans, but his wife is blind and lives in the home. I have rarely seen two people so in love at such an advanced stage in life and it really touched me.)

My husband and another lady veteran swapped stories about Apple Valley, California as they had that in common. She actually worked at the senior center down the street from where his father pastored.
I was wearing my Soldiers' Angels t-shirt, which proved to be a good conversation starter and everyone was interested in hearing about the organization and what we stand for. We were so busy visiting that we only took one picture, which is the one above of a handful of veterans decorating heart shaped sugar cookies.
On the drive home my husband and I discussed the different conversations and feelings we'd had. It was a memorable experience for both of us and we think maybe we'll make it a Valentine's Day tradition. (Except maybe the dinner at a certain restaurant that followed that excursion. I'd be okay not going there again. Ha.)

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