It’s Valentine’s Day.
You’re in luck, little ones, because I have a warm and loving story to tell you in honor of this day.
And like all good stories, this one is about my father.
I have had a few Valentines in my life. I had a boyfriend in college who bought me three dozen roses and gave each dozen to me on campus at different points in the day.
I had a different boyfriend who once bought me the baby pink stilettos I was oogling in the store and then thought that meant he could spend all Valentine’s Day getting high with his high school Bro’s as a reward.
I’ve had all kinds of Valentine’s Day experiences, some romantic, some disappointing, some filled with friends, and others filled with empty candy wrappers littering the couch. In all 26 years of my life there’s only been two constants for me when it comes to guys and Valentine’s Day.
1. Valentine’s Day will come every year.
2. My father will do nothing about it.
Valentine’s Day comes and goes, my friends, and not a word each year from the first and only man in my life.
Now, I never knew that there was a tradition of fathers celebrating Valentine’s Day with their daughters- because, hello? my dad didn’t- until I started to see other girls receive heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and balloons in college.
“Where did you get those candies?” I would ask.
“Oh, my dad”, they would reply. “I’m such a loser that I only receive Valentine’s Day gifts from my father.” Giggle.
To which, in my head I would think, “Am I SUCH A LOSER that I don’t even get Valentine’s Day shit from MY DAD?”
My dad is not interested in Valentine’s Day. He’s not even interested in Birthdays. So much so that he doesn’t even sign his own damn name in the card.
Once I asked my mom, “Hey Mom, how come Dad never signs his own name in my Birthday cards?”
Do you want to know what she said?
“He doesn’t sign the card because I don’t let him. If he signed the card he would ruin it by writing something annoying like,
‘Happy Birthday. Stop watching so much tv.’ “
And you know what, she’s right.
To better illustrate who he is, let me share a lesson about love and responsibility I learned directly from my father.
As you may have read before, I spent an inordinate amount of my childhood at Atlantic City. During the hours my mother spent at the casinos, my father would take me around the mall across the boardwalk from Caesar’s Palace. If you go to this mall today, Pier Shops, you will discover stores selling luxury items, a gourmet candy shop, and other such novelty items for the rich and bored. However, when I was a kid, this mall was filled with stores catering to the exact opposite clientele.
This is NOT what it looked like when I was a kid
I remember there was a dollar store, a McDonalds, a Rainbow (or some other store selling slutty teenage clothes for under $10 a pop) and a rundown arcade. My father, because he loved me, would take me through the mall and let me play arcade games and eat Happy Meals until it was time to return to the hotel to meet Momma.
We almost always stayed in Caesar’s, which was directly in front of this mall. In order to walk into the mall you would have to climb a ramp that was set at an angle large enough to warrant concern from the average casino goer, i.e. out of shape person.
This was no problem for me and Daddy, except for the one time it was.
One time, Dad and I went to The Pier Shop to kill some time. It was dead Winter. Cold. It had been snowing the entire day. After spending time at the
child casino arcade, Dad and I zipped up our down jackets and walked outside. The snow had not only gathered significantly since we had entered the mall, but as the night was approaching, the whole boardwalk had frozen over. Standing before us and Caesar’s Palace was a sheet of ice descending at a cautionary angle. Immediately I stuck out my nine year-old hand and said, “Hold my hand, Daddy.”
To which my father replied, “No.”
“Janine…”, He reasoned, “If I hold your hand, then we both have a greater chance of falling than if we don’t hold hands.”
And then he descended the ramp…without me.
That’s my father. He’s a loving man. Loving enough to spend hours with me at the decrepit mall of Atlantic City, but too practical to hold my hand as we slid down an ice ramp from hell.
So one year I decided, enough is enough. He’s not getting away with this slacking dad routine ANYMORE. This time, it’s my Birthday,goddamnit, and I have a father, goddamnit, and yeah, maybe I was single that year and bitter, but I WAS GETTING FLOWERS FOR F’SAKE AND THEY WERE COMING FROM HIM.
I called him from Jackson, MS, a place which, of course, he helped me drive cross country to move to, but let’s overlook that piece of irony so I can focus on how I’ve been mistreated all my life.
“Daddy, you’re always telling me I don’t need a boyfriend, because I have you, right?”
“Well, my Birthday is coming. And I don’t have a boyfriend.”
“So…I was thinking…you should send me flowers.”
“No. I don’t think so.”
I couldn’t believe it…NO?!? Really? His own miserable, single, homesick daughter? How could he say “NO”?
So I did the next best thing. I called my mom.
“MOM, Dad refuses to get me flowers for my Birthday.”
“Ah. Sounds like your father.”
She was no help. But I wasn’t giving up that easily. Oh, no. I called him EVERY DAY until my Birthday to remind him to send me flowers.
My Birthday comes. No flowers.
An unknown number shows up on my phone and leaves a voice mail. This is what it said,
“Hi…(pause) Janine… This is Mike, from (enter florist name here), yeah…uh… there seems to have been a mess up with an order of flowers that was supposed to arrive today for you. Your father ordered a bouquet to be sent to your house, however we messed up the order and they were unable to arrive today. So, I’m sorry for the mishap, and I hope you have a wonderful Birthday.”
So, naturally, I called my father.
“Dad. I just got the strangest message from a florist about flowers…”
“Yeah,” my father says.
“Yeah, what happened??”
He answers, “THIS GUY messes up my order…calls me up and says the flowers won’t be there until tomorrow…apologizes and wants to reimburse me.”
“Yeah, so I tell him, “NO. I don’t want the flowers late. NOT ONLY are you going to reimburse me, but you’re going TO CALL MY DAUGHTER AND APOLOGIZE AND EXPLAIN TO HER WHY THOSE FLOWERS DIDN’T ARRIVE TODAY.”
“So you’re telling me you made this guy call me to apologize?”
“Yeah, you believe this guy? Messed up the order.”
“So, I’m not getting flowers?…”
Poor Mike. Mike had to call me up and apologize for messing up an order, my dad got his money back, and I got squat.
Why I couldn’t have received the flowers a day late, I don’t know. Probably the same reason my father still, TO THIS DAY, thinks he was correct in refusing to hold my hand as I slid down the ramp in Atlantic City.
I’ll never understand the way he thinks, no one does. But, I have to say, he has definitely given me a lot of great stories to write.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Dad. There are no flowers heading your way.