I've always been rather apathetic about Valentine's Day - I don't need roses or jewelry, could actually do without the day as a whole; however, what I do enjoy is our annual Valentine's Day date at Dairy Queen. Dave and I had our first ever Dairy Queen Valentine's Day date in 1997, in Cody, Wyoming and we haven't missed one since.
Each time we moved to a new city, we always made sure to scout out the local Dairy Queen so we wouldn't break tradition. I have fond memories of leaving work to meet Dave and our three-month-old Amanda at the DQ in Orem, UT...of cleaning up sloppy ice cream after lil' B made a total mess of himself at the DQ in Northglenn a few years ago.
Yesterday was our 12th annual DQVD date. Excitement of reveling in all that is ice cream and grease was felt with an undertone of sadness. The kids were happy to be there to celebrate, but you could feel the grief that was shared between myself and Dave - the grief of a marriage irreparably undone.
There was an odd mix of the comfort of being able to see my kids on a day I normally wouldn't, with discomfort of trying to understand the new dynamic that has been created between me and their dad. There was familiarity of the four of us creating an experience together, outwardly appearing as any normal family sharing time together.
Despite the bumps along the way, I feel that Dave and I have done a pretty good job with regards to handling the separation in the best way possible for the kids. We are able to come together and relate as a family as if we were all happily living under the same roof, laughing and being silly together, us as parents equally respected and the kids equally loved.
Yet the pain is palpable, the tension is there - a mourning of what once was but will never be again. It's the feeling of gratitude for being able to maintain, yet the trepidation of wondering where our future will take us as a family. I constantly wonder what the kids see, what they feel, whether or not they notice the chasm that runs deep in the unspoken words between the two that brought them into this world.
They are deeply loved children who fill our hearts with the unconditional love that we failed to provide to each other. They radiate love and strength while experiencing the worst life has to offer, and for that they are my true heroes. They are my Valentines, forever and always.