Brandon and I didn’t celebrate too many holidays, but the one holiday that was always special for us was Valentine’s Day. He and I met each other on January 8, 2008. During the “getting to know each other” process that first month, he found out about my love for tulips. On our first Valentine’s Day back in 2008, he had a bouquet of red tulips waiting for me when I came over after work for dinner.
With that, the tradition was born: each year he got me tulips. They were always a different color; red, pink, purple, yellow. We did various other things, but tulips were a constant. I remember he used to get mad when the kitties would try and eat his presents. He’d shoo them away from the flowers, saying how he’d never get them again, but he always did, year after year, even if they were under the threat of being nibbled on by the cats.
For Valentine’s Day in 2013, I came home from work to a pot of beautiful yellow tulips. Two weeks later, I came home and found him dead. Those tulips were still blooming. I remember the days after his death, looking at those happy yellow tulips broke my heart. I started to hate them. How could they still be blooming when he was dead? How could they have outlived him? I ended up throwing them in the trash. For Brandon’s funeral, there were many flowers from people. Among the sea of flowers, were red tulips. I couldn’t look at them, I didn’t want anything to do with them. It was known that I adored tulips, and I was asked if I wanted to take them home after the funeral. I remember tearing up and saying that I never wanted to see tulips again.
I haven’t touched or looked at tulips in two years. My mind and heart associated them with his death now, and all of the sadness and anger that followed. At the last session with my therapist, she and I talked about Valentine’s Day. I told her about its significance and the tulips. She told me to go out and buy some tulips, to face the feelings that would bring, to stop avoiding it, to try and find some good in the flowers again. I remember thinking, yeah, sure, I’ll get right on that. But the strangest thing happened, when I was at the store a few days later, I saw a table full of tulips, I walked up to it, looked at them, picked some up, and took them home. They made me sad, they made my heart hurt, they made me remember.
But what I realized was that not all of the memories involving tulips are bad, just the last one. The rest of the memories are beautiful. I started to remember all of Brandon’s and mine Valentine’s days together. One year he made dinner and fruit salad, but he kept getting food on his shirt, so he ended up changing clothes like 3 times in just a few hours. One year he got me smoked salmon and a giant container of blueberries, because he knew those were things that would make me happy. One year he bought a Russian cookbook and tried making Russian food for me. One year he baked me a chocolate cake, but he set the Pyrex container on a turned on burner on the stove, so it ended up exploding; I came home to him cleaning up a thousand pieces of cake and glass everywhere, smiling, and saying, “Well, I was going to surprise you with a cake…”
So, I have these tulips here with me now. The first tulips in my life that didn’t come from Brandon. A part of me is sad and wants to cry. But another part of me is comforted by them. I look at them and remember all of the great times, all of the laughs and silly moments. I remember he and I loved each other and had a good life together; we were happy. So I’m going to work on taking my therapist’s advice: I’m going to find the good in these flowers again. And maybe I’ll keep buying them every year on Valentine’s Day, as a way to remember and acknowledge Brandon.