Feb 08, 2012 Neil Benjamin Jr. Uncategorized
It used to be the most sickening time of year, when stores turned from normal into red, heart-engulfed advertisements.
You couldn’t go anywhere without being punched in the face by Valentine’s Day. Restaurants hold specials, confectioners concoct tasty treats and boyfriends everywhere scramble to make it a day to remember.
It’s never been too high on my list of favorite days on the calender — it’s just behind the last day of summer and just before the first day of winter. It was always a day to publicly lambaste the shenanigans while inside I wondered what it would be like to have someone to spoil and make a special occasion for.
Boy how minds can change. A few years back I went out on a lunch date with a neighbor I had while living in Massachusetts. We had just met and there was nothing in the way of expectations on either side.
Fast forward to today, and I’m giddy with respect, adoration and admiration for the woman I am deeply in love with. Before meeting Holley Burfoot, who happens to be the director of Syracuse University’s Early Education and Child Care Center, I wasn’t sure true love existed for everyone.
I can firmly state that she is the greatest thing to happen to me on so many levels. She’s beautiful, confident and caring, inside and out. She’s helped me grow into my personal definition of a man, allowing me to see the big picture, that life is a marathon, not a group of sprints.
Beyond that, and definitely more important, in my time with Holley I have learned the difference between need and want. As a single male, I’d use my vacation time each summer to go see 10 Phish concerts in succession, only caring about how to get to the next show. I’d take off on weekends and travel as far as I could to see live music — I didn’t have anyone to worry about but myself.
In turn, this made the beginning of our courtship quite rocky. How dare she tell me I can’t go see my favorite band! I worked my tail off to earn the time. She has no right, blah, blah, blah. It was that weird age, 24 to 25, when you aren’t quite a full-fledged adult, but you’re clearly not still a child.
It was a struggle between my youth and my future. But then Feb. 11, 2011, occurred, a day that will never be erased from my memory. My younger brother, a person I admire more than anyone, nearly lost his life in an accident. He was in a coma for nearly three months and we didn’t know if he was going to survive. Showing his extreme toughness, Scott woke up and is currently working his way back to health, learning how to walk and talk, how to change his shirt — the things we all take for granted.
I didn’t realize it until recently, but I was desensitized by everything. I had to leave my job for a week to be with my family, who was still in shock. I cried. I laughed. I flipped out. I thought it was my fault this happened. There was nothing constant in my life anymore.
Except for Holley.
She was my shoulder to cry on, my ear to scream in, my person to blame. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had grown into a basket case, with any little thing just waiting to set me off. And because we were so close, living together, Holley was the person who bared the brunt of my behavior.
And never once did she flinch. Even when I was at my worst, she was there to help pick me up and try to put me back together, even when I fought it with every bit of strength I had left.
Looking back, she should have ditched me and my emotions. I can remember some situations in which I caused a fight because I didn’t know how to deal with how I was feeling. She put herself in the background and focused on helping me get back to who I was.
On Saturday, it will have been one year since my brother began his path toward rehabilitation. And it is also when I began mine. Because without that woman I used to put Phish concerts ahead of, I’m not sure I’d still be a productive member of society.
And for that, this Valentine’s Day goes out to Holley. I usually turn to words to get feelings out, but there is no way to show how much her love has helped me through the worst year ever.
There’s no amount of candy, teddy bears, jewelry — anything associated with Lover’s Day — that can express how I feel about the woman I love.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Holley!
Neil Benjamin Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.