Jacob took inventory of the items on the counter as he slipped on his jacket. He checked his jacket pocket to make sure his knit hat was there. These February days looked warm from inside, but that assessment would change with a few minutes in the cool wind. He grabbed the picnic basket, the box of chocolates, the card and the flowers from the counter and headed out the door.
The trip was short and familiar – one he had made numerous times each week for the past four years. As he parked the vehicle his attention was taken by the rows of grey stones adorned with flowers.
Once he arrived at the grave, he sat everything down and began his ritual of pulling any weeds or long stems of grass from around the headstone. Once that was complete, he removed the blanket from the picnic basket and spread it out on the ground.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, honey.” The words seemed empty. “I brought you flowers. Not roses, like our first year, but those snap dragons that I later learned were your favorite.” He laid the flowers at the base of the headstone. “I wonder how many years I gave you roses before I finally figured that out?”
A blast of wind sent a chill through his body, causing him to put on the hat from his pocket. He pulled his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around his legs. His eyes traced the letters on the headstone.
“I still miss you like crazy.” Tears formed across the bottom of his eyes. “Special days like this seem to hurt more than regular days.”
He didn’t bother wiping his eyes, allowing the tears to roll down his face.
“I guess it’s because I realize how many opportunities I missed to make you feel special.” He pulled a handkerchief from his pants pocket.
“I remember one year we didn’t do anything to celebrate. We were trying to save money. Well, we got the house, didn’t we? I put it on the market last week. I’m sorry, honey. I thought we had so much time.”
Jacob’s back hurt and that empty pain was in his chest again. He finally wiped his face and reached into the basket for a sandwich.
“I brought peanut butter and jelly,” he said, pointing the sandwich in the direction of the headstone. “If you were still here I would have brought chicken and mashed potatoes. You told me that on our second picnic – the one where I brought spaghetti but only one fork and one spoon. And the bread was hard as a rock by the time we ate. I never even got around to having another picnic for us after that. Wasted knowledge, I guess.”
“I also remember you telling me how you wish I were more romantic – how you wish I had proposed on Valentine’s Day by hiding a ring in a box of chocolates or something. You always were more creative than me. I felt lucky that I had the nerve to ask you that day on your parent’s back porch. I was so nervous. I don’t know why.” He reached around the basket, picked up the box of chocolates and removed the lid.”
“Well, I’m not going to make those same mistakes. Take a look at this.” He held the box out in front of him as if showing it.
“I’m finally going to ask her and I’m going to do it the right way. Like I’ve said before, you would really like her. It’s weird, because you and her are not much alike, but somehow I know you would both get along great if you ever met. I try not to talk constantly about you, but she understands when I do.”
He glanced at his watch, amazed at how quickly the time had passed. “I need to get going. I’m picking her up at six. My plan is to give her the flowers there- tulips, that’s her favorite. When we are through eating dinner – we’re going to Alexis’, by the way. Is that nice enough? Anyway, when we’re through with dinner I will give her the box of chocolates saying we can eat that for dessert. I can’t wait to see her face when she opens the box. What do you think? Am I learning?”