When most people think about Valentine’s Day, they think of their boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife – that’s if they think of it at all.

But Grandpa and I do. We also think of the grandkids and the years I used to buy those boxes of little cards for them to bring to school. I made sure there was enough for every kid in class so nobody felt unloved on Valentine’s Day.

For years I received cards, candy, stuffed animals and a few balloons, here and there, but in the last few years it’s toned down a little bit. That’s fine with me since all those stuffed creatures began to take over our house, and I find them everywhere. My kissing monkeys hit me in the head when I tried to get something down from the closet shelf and Ozzie the giant giraffe stares at me from across the room when we are watching television. Don’t get me wrong, I still get a kick out of the funny signs on the bathroom mirror and Grandpa dressed up in his tiger costume dancing with a poster that wishes me a Happy Valentine’s Day. I cherish all of the memories and the love.

After my dad passed away and my mom was still here, we would get her some sugar-free chocolate and a card making sure she knew that even though my dad was gone, he would have been right there with the yellow roses that she loved. For decades, she hid the fact that they made her sneeze because he loved getting them for her just as much as she appreciated that he did it every year. They were married for 60 wonderful and loving years.

My grandfather would give my grandmother something special on Valentine’s Day along with a nice card. Considering they had a card store in New York, he said it was easy to remember to pick one out for her. She called him Daddy with her heavy Brooklyn accent and she was Tootsie. On the kitchen wall were two plates with felt cutouts of a man and a woman. Daddy was printed on his and, yes, Tootsie on hers. As a kid, I thought those were the coolest ever! They were happily married for 66 years and between them and my parents as marital role models, I too would settle for nothing less than the perfect Valentine. Grandpa and I will celebrate our 40th anniversary this year.

I understand the history and meaning of this light-hearted – no pun intended – holiday, but there are many people I truly adore, so sharing some kindness with them is equally sweet. Many seniors have lost a loved one, especially one’s life partner, making certain holidays less and less joyful. Some live alone, and a card or even a phone call saying I love you means a lot.

Friends with Flowers, who I’ve spoken about before when they made the paper flower arrangements and then Christmas gifts, put together enough handcrafted and candy-filled Valentine’s Day goodie bags for everyone at four local senior living places, putting unexpected smiles on so many faces. I had the privilege of delivering them to two of the places and I say with gusto, bravo to them. They know the real meaning of love. The reaction from Cleo and all the others was of pure joy.

Holidays are meaningful for two reasons. The first is obvious as each one has a history or a specific meaning and even qualify for a day off from work or school, but the second is the personal traditions that keep the memories in our hearts. I think back on the numerous February 14ths in my life with smiles and look forward to many more with my sweetheart.

I’m sending hearts and virtual hugs to all of you with some extra special shout-outs to everyone who is sheltering inside on this Valentine’s Day. My grandfather used to tell me all the time that he was going to buy me a monkey. I never really understood why or how, but now I know that he wanted me to find a special man that would indeed get me that monkey and I did! He got me two of them. Happy Valentine’s Day to you all with my love.

Marla Luckhardt is a Brentwood resident who works with several local senior care and advocacy groups. Reach her at marla2054@aol.com.

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