This summer brings our 51st wedding anniversary.
And so I find my thoughts turning to romance.
Not the grand gestures you sometimes see depicted on the big and little screens either.
You know those.
Airplanes gracefully skywriting, "Marry me please my one true love, Stephanie!" in cloudlike script.
Or a candlelight and crystal picnic set up at the very edge of the Grand Canyon, with a portable CD playing "How Deep Is My Love."
I don't mean that sort of thing.
No, my thoughts have turned instead to some of the little romantic sparkles which actually lit my life.
The first I remember is when Larry and I were very young.
He was a sophomore in college living with roomates in an apartment close to the university.
I was still in high school.
We'd been dating for a while when he learned that I loved flowers.
Of course as a college student he had no money to spare for flowers.
Even so, oftentimes he came to pick me up for a date with bouquets of garden roses, or gladiolas, or other sometimes spetacular blossoms.
They were always presented wrapped in layers and layers of wet newspaper and once or twice came with aphids.
I asked him one time where he got them and he said that he was always on the lookout.
So whenever he saw flowers growing along highway medians, or parks, or at ASU outside the Dean's office, he would hop whatever barrier was guarding them and pull out his trusty pocket knife.
I still think the most beautiful flowers come wrapped in wet newspaper.
And I try not to remember "Thou shall not steal," when I do.
Another early twinkle came about when I had a date with an Eagle Scout I'd met several months previously. He'd asked me to go to a fancy Blue and Gold Scout Ball to be held in the spring. It was to be a formal affair held at a big hotel in downtown Phoenix.
I explained all this to Larry. He said he understood about honoring committments.
But lo and behold, when the night came and my date and I came out of the festivities, there was Larry standing across Central Avenue under a streetlight.
He was leaning against his car, arms crossed, glaring at the ballroom exit.
Even way back then that glare reminded me of a sparkle. It still does.
After we married, a particular small bit of romance became an ongoing joke.
Early one morning as I opened my newlywed eyes I found Larry looking at me.
I pulled the covers over my head and said with distress, "Don't look at me when I'm ugly!"
He pulled the covers off my head and just stared.
Long and hard too.
This became a standard and very annoying morning ritual.
Then there were gifts.
A lot of traditional romantics prefer jewelry stores for diamonds and the like.
Supermarkets became Larry's go-to source for romance all the rest of our lives.
He'd be sent off to buy bread or milk. When he came home there at the bottom of the bag I'd find a new potato peeler.
When I asked about it he'd say, "Last week you said you hated the kind of peeler we had."
Or there'd be an extension cord because I'd cussed a lamp that was out of reach. Or a gadget to open jars when I'd remarked offhandly last month that it hurt to open pesky lids. Or a pepper shaker with big holes, or whatever.
That he'd remembered brought the sparkle.
And then there was asparagus.
I love it though it can be on the expensive side. Every now and then I'd find a bunch or a can serving as a note from my husband when I unpacked the groceries.
Then too, grocery store flowers were often gifts.
I love their bouquets of mixed varieties and colors.
And anyway, by then Larry had grown too old for hopping over highway medians.
Of course my standard comment when receiving a bunch was, "What did you do?"
Once I remember a very special "day after" Valentine's Day.
I don't usually like this holiday's "coerced" show of affection.
But this year, our daughter Kim had been sent two dozen long stemmed roses from her current beau. I went to her room to admire them and show motherly support. I commented that as old as I was I'd never been given long stemmed roses. "That young man must think you're really special!" I gushed.
I didn't know that my husband was standing out in the hall. (In truth I actually preferred the grocery store mixed bouquets of daisies and carnations that I was usually given.)
The next day, February 15th, Larry and I went to the grocery store for our weekly purchases. He was loading the car with the toilet paper, dog food, and laundry detergent when he reached into one of the the shopping carts and brought out two bouquets of the most gorgeous pink and yellow roses I'd ever seen! Those flowers were as big as teacups!
He'd snuck them by me when I wasn't looking.
As he handed them in through the car window he said, "They were half price. But it still counts!"
His voice sounded slightly annoyed.
Apparently he was miffed that I had never told him that I wished for roses.
Actually I hadn't wished, but those beautiful flowers did indeed count.
Then there were little romantic occasions.
Like the shared ice cream treats of our "geezer" years. ( Larry liked to call us "fogarts." I'll let you figure out what words he shortened and combined.)
Anyway, neither of us was supposed to eat sweets, but Larry especially was afflicted with a terrible sweet tooth. Mine is more of a french fry tooth.
In any case, we devised a system of moderation that worked for the rare sundae. We would order a small size with 2 spoons.
This worked well except for the cherry on top.
Larry always managed to whisk it away and eat it before I could even make a grab for it. This became a joke until I complained about unrighteous dominion. Then Larry would still whisk the cherry away, eat half of it, and put the remains on top!
Now whenever I see a mangled, half eaten cherry I get all romantic.
By the way we ended up using this system with french fries too. One order, split in two. No issues with the cherry.
Another time Larry received the "little sparkle."
I sent him to Sears to buy new shoes and not long after he left, our son called.
Dane said that he'd just been given tickets to the ASU / UofA football game which started in less than two hours. This was an historic game, a longstanding rivalry between the two universities. ASU was Larry's alma mater and our son wanted to take his dad.
I explained that he wasn't home but then said that I was sure I could find him.
So I called Sears and knowing that he'd been sent to buy shoes I asked for the tool department.
A salesgirl answered and I explained the "football emergency." She understood.
I described my husband. "Find a big, handsome man who looks like a cross between Sean Connery and Santa Clause."
She put down the phone to go look. She came back and apologized that she didn't see him.
I added, "I almost forgot. He's a really good kisser."
Immediately she cried out, "Oh, there he is now! Hang on."
When Larry got home after the game I explained how I found him.
He smiled slyly and then presented me with one of his best kisses.
I noticed a little romantic sparkle in his eye.
But I still wonder about that salesgirl.
Beaches at sunset provide memories too.
One I especially remember. It was our anniversary and we had come by ourselves this trip.
Comfortable camping chairs were loaded in the trunk since we could no longer get up and down from the sand without paramedics to assist.
The sun was sitting low on the horizon and an increasingly cool sea breeze came briskly onto shore.
As we set up our chairs and turned to enjoy the setting sun an amazing thing happened.
A beautiful young couple dressed in their wedding finery made their way to the edge of the sea!
They were holding hands and kissing tenderly.
I said to Larry, "Look at that sweet young couple! They're just starting out and here just a few feet away from them sits an old married couple together for decades. Isn't that wonderful! How does that make you feel?"
He looked into my eyes, wrapped his jacket closer around him, paused dramatically and said,
"I feel cold. Let's get in the car, and turn the heat on, Babe."
I'm still trying to figure out exactly what he meant by that. But I did notice a definite twinkle in his eye when he said it.
One of our most romantic moments ever came at Disneyland.
We were sitting by ourselves outside Toontown on a secluded bench. The fireworks program was ready to begin.
It had been a wonderful day.
We looked to the dark sky, our view framed by the bare, sculptural branches of a mid-winter tree.
Then sweet music began to play and skyrockets exploded in beautiful patterns in the night.
"When You Wish Upon A Star" was the last song accompanied by the huge finale of skyrockets.
We sat on the bench, huddled together for warmth, watching exploding rainbows of sparkling light.
It was magic. There's no other way to describe it. A magic moment in our lives.
I looked at Larry and said. "What can you say after that?"
Then he looked into my eyes for a long time. "I've seen fireworks before," he said.
Naturally I melted.
And then I forgave him for a great many of the especially dumb things he'd done over the years.
He'd covered a multitude of sins with that one.
Dear Readers, these next words are the hardest I've ever had to write.
I won't be able to hold Larry's hand or feel the tickle of his mustache through a kiss on our anniversary this summer. That will have to wait for a while.
You see Larry passed away early this month. He finished up and was called home.
I had always hoped we could go together but that seldom happens, does it?
There must be a great lesson many of us need to learn in that brief space of time without our better half.
To say that I miss him doesn't begin to convey what my heart is feeling.
Sadness sits on my shoulder now. But I don't feel despair. Because hope sits softly on the other so there is no room for despair.
You see, that we've been married for eternity in a Holy Temple of the Lord makes all the difference.
Our children have been sealed to us for all time. We truly are a forever family and my heart fills with gratitude for that blessing.
And words will never be able to tell the comfort I feel because I absolutely know that Larry is well and happy. Many who love him were waiting there to welcome him to the next step of progression.
He's busy learning, growing, helping and teaching. I know too that his friendly personality and goofy sense of humor will open hearts that no one else could reach.
And then, so very thankfully, I feel his presence near me often. Especially when I miss him most.
Lately I've been writing thank you notes to wonderful family and friends. And so I'd like to send a note to Heavenly Father.
My heart overflows with gratitude for my countless blessings. Among the most precious, our amazing children and grandchildren.
Thank you for sending your son, Christ the Savior, to conquer death for all of us.
Thank you for Larry and the blessings of our marriage and family.
Thank you for the Holy Temples where husbands, wives, and families are sealed forever.
Thank you that in one of them I didn't have to say "Til death we do part."
Thank you that Larry and I will be together again. Not one whisker of his mustache lost, he will wrap me in a great hug once more.
And thank you more than words can say that I absolutely know the truth of these things.