I remember the first time I saw Betty. She was walking down a path on our college campus and swinging her bookbag carelessly as she laughed at something her friend had said. I felt like someone had punched me in the gut and I just knew I had to get to know her. When I saw her next, at a party, I got up the courage to walk over to her and introduce myself. I am still surprised that she was interested in me too, and we hit it off right away.
We had so much in common. We had both grown up in small towns and dreamed of raising our families in a close-knit community. We both loved country music and took turns introducing each other to new songs. She loved my sense of humor and I loved her drive and determination. We dated for a year before I proposed on the exact spot I had first spotted her.
After graduation, we married and moved to her hometown. We have built an incredible life together, including our 3 wonderful children, satisfying careers, a beautiful home and a community we love that loves us back.
I’m not a natural romantic, but Betty loves Valentine’s Day, so I have always made an effort to surprise her with a gesture that shows how much she means to me. One year, I took her to a Tim McGraw concert and an overnight stay in a hotel. Most years were more low-key, but I always try to do more than buy a card and bring home flowers.
Two years ago, Betty had a bad fall while standing on a stool to change a light bulb. Her health began to deteriorate then, and she has slowly become more dependent on me for physical help. I am now chief cook and bottlewasher in the house. I do laundry, serve meals and do all the shopping. In the past few months, Betty’s walking has become more labored and I have to assist her in getting from room to room.
I am lucky that Betty’s mind is still sharp and that she and I can still enjoy each other’s company. But as her mobility becomes more limited, I sense her frustration and anger. It’s even more important now to show her how much I love her. I cook her favorite foods, join in watching her TV programs and bring her flowers whenever I can.
We can’t go anywhere this Valentine’s Day, but I am not giving up on the grand gesture. One day, while my son stayed with Betty, I went to a recording studio and taped a karaoke version of I Will Always Love You. The local radio station has promised to play it during Betty’s favorite broadcast, along with a special dedication from me. I don’t have the greatest voice and I’m kind of embarrassed about singing on the radio, but I know it will make Betty smile, and that’s all that matters.