My Funny Valentine


Before leaving Los Angeles last week, my sister teased Auntie1 that I will be her Valentine.  Tonight, that becomes a reality and she becomes the luckiest woman in the world. I say that with cheeks flushed red not only from a very special wine, but even more, from a cheerful thought of our Valentine’s Day together.

I awoke this  morning with a symphonic2 sound of kitchen cabinet doors thumping, microwave bells ringing, and the cymbal-like clash of utensils after the swift swish of water from the faucet ceases. This, since Auntie arrived a week ago, has preceded my morning alarm, and has become my daily assurance that God has blessed her with yet another day.  Not only Christ has risen, but so has Lilia Venturina. I rose from my bed and went out into the kitchen to greet her good morning and Happy Valentine’s Day.  Like clockwork, I asked her how she slept, and if the sleepy time tea3 worked. She said she slept ok, but still woke up multiple times.  I teased her of perhaps not making the tea “properly,” as in, boiling the water and letting the tea bag steep robustly. I have a suspicion that she may be lightly brewing the tea bag, so she could re-use it because it is “sayang”[wasteful] – one of her favorite words.  As with previous lectures, I told her that of all people, she is one that ought not to be frugal anymore, as she has given so much of herself to others; and it is time for her to enjoy everything to their full extent.

Like clockwork, she too, told me: “Mag-almusal ka,4” perhaps praying that my daily answer will change.  It has not: “Auntie, I told you, I don’t have breakfast during the work week.” I then walked back to my room to take a shower and get ready for another fabulous work day.

Josh Groban did not shy away from his usual repertoire as he sang with me in the shower this morning. As if on queue, he covered “What I Did For Love,” from “A Chorus Line” to prompt a mild contemplation on being single on Valentine’s Day.  My morning shower was quick, and so was my contemplation.

As I was putting on my shoes, Auntie asked me again to have breakfast or at least have coffee.  I told her I’m getting coffee from Starbucks. I said goodbye and marched on to pick up my mobile order.

The work day was as I predicted – busy. I intended to take an early lunch, so I could go to the store, but early turned to one-thirty, and by that time, I really needed a quick escape.   I informed my Director, just in case she came looking for me, that I was just about to go to lunch and my return might take longer than usual because I have to take my grandma to get glasses5 Finally, I have a socially-acceptable reason to be away from work.  For years, as an unmarried, childless professional, I have not really had “legitimate” excuses that many colleagues had for being away from work; and I was almost always expected to provide coverage at work because of my status.  Not today, well, at least not for a few hours.

I walked home, had lunch, and then Auntie and I took off for Costco. I know, what an exciting way to spend an extended lunch period.  Well, Auntie was excited, especially since finding out from a Costco trip with my sister weeks prior that there are tons of free food samples at America’s Buy-in-Bulk Mecca.

While at Costco, I had to mildly snatch her out of people’s or carts’ way, especially at the food samples kiosks where she would just squeeze in between or in front of people. I have always been annoyed when people would do that and it has been quite an interesting experience watching her do it. “Auntie, be mindful of the people around you. You don’t have to cut in line; you are not in the Philippines.” She would make a face in reaction and then still do what she wants. I find it both comical and somewhat annoying.  Sometimes I think she is doing it to annoy me on purpose; perhaps to test my patience and to fully convince me to not pressure her anymore about staying in the United States permanently. I don’t think that’s her true intent, though.

Since Costco would not give me a day pass, I told Auntie we were just getting wine6 and that I’ll push my luck into getting flowers, too.  We went to the wine aisles and got some food samples along the way, then we went to see the flowers. I was hoping that Costco would have the usual high quality roses that I have seen in the past, but not today: they were small, skinny, and sad.  I got in line with a bottle of The Prisoner and one of my favorite ports – Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port.

I did not want to give up on my search for beautiful roses, especially after discovering after many years that Auntie’s favorite flowers are actually roses and not tulips, like we previously believed. We drove to Safeway on Alhambra Road. It was from this particular location that I have purchased gorgeous long stem roses in the past, and I was hoping the store would not disappoint.  It did not.  Although the available field of bouquets were satisfying, I wanted to see an even more gorgeous bunch, so I asked one of the florists if they had a more vibrant bouquet from the back fridge; and of course they did – these gorgeous fuchsia roses with the longest stems in the store.  I was surprised that the bouquet was just $25, and with two of the 15 stems broken, I was even able to get an additional $5 discounted.  The other bouquet I held on to was beautifully delicate and unique: It has white/pink petals with rugged edges that are brighter in color.  I left the two bouquets with the florists and asked them to make them “even prettier.” I walked around the store to get salmon, a nice piece of bone-in steak meat, asparagus, and cherry tomatoes. I returned to the flower kiosk and realized that I should have been specific regarding the Baby’s Breath and ribbon: They have flooded the arrangement with about ten pounds of Baby’s Breath and used hideous ribbons they probably believed matched the color of the flowers.  They were very helpful in allowing me to explore inside the large fridge to see for myself the other available bouquets and they also sent another staff member to the back to look for other roses, so I held my tongue and did not make a fuss. The florists were SO incredibly busy with other male customers that it would have been inconsiderate for me to take up more of their time.  I paid for the flowers and food, and then drove us back to my apartment.

As we were driving, we had a little talk about being single on Valentine’s Day.  She told me that one of her friends asked her if I was getting married anytime soon.  I told her I don’t think I will get married or will live with anyone long-term.  I have tried it7 in the past and it did not work out.  My patience wears off and I get annoyed with even the tiniest deviation from the details of my single life.  I mean, I love having friends and family over, but only temporarily; only to the extent that my OCD tendencies would allow.  I told Auntie that it may sound sad, but I am actually fine and happy being single; and unless I meet someone hot and Billionaire rich, I intend to stay single. This made her chuckle.  She then said in Tagalog, “Well, now you understand why I prefer to live by myself in the Philippines.” I responded, “You say that until you meet someone hot and Billionaire rich.” We both laughed.

I walked her up to my apartment and then I walked back to work.  It was 4:00 PM.  The building did not burn; no staff members were placed in danger; and no cars were stolen8 I should take longer lunches more often to keep my sanity.

I once again mildly contemplated on being single, if I am really ok, and if I will continue to be ok.  I believe I am and will continue to be.  I will just have to maintain a life enriched with travel, adventures with family and friends; fine dining; and lots of fabulous fine wine.

At around 5:30 PM, I started to walk home from work.  I did want to work too late, as I had a Valentines dinner to make.  Auntie was in charge of arranging the bouquets of flowers in a vase; I took charge of occasionally judging her work. I told her that it was her fault that I am very particular with details of artistic things. She is to blame for my obsession with beauty and elegance; she truly is.  She responds that the student is now the teacher.9

Before 8:00 PM, our Valentine’s dinner table was set: Two dozen of the prettiest roses floated over clouds of tamed Babies’ Breath, perfectly broiled salmon lay with asparagus and cherry tomatoes, the steak deliciously rested in its juicy goodness, and the fine wine, which I have started to drink as I was cooking, was breathing and preparing to be enjoyed some more.  I lit candles as an essential part of the setting and as an essential part of a silent prayer of thankfulness that I had a very special opportunity to share a somewhat comical but overwhelmingly enchanting Valentine’s dinner with my beloved Auntie, to whom I owe a passionate attention to a life filled with the glory of all things beautiful.

  1. My Grand Aunt who raised me.
  2. More like, dissonance.
  3. I bought her a box of sleepy time tea to help her with her insomnia.
  4. Have breakfast.
  5. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to find her a pair of reading classes.
  6. At Costco, they allow you to buy wine or any liquor without a membership. They call this a “99.”
  7. Living with someone I was in a relationship with, not getting married.
  8. Unlike last week when an employee’s car was stolen in broad daylight.
  9. And vice-versa.

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2 Responses

  1. Oh Eli, this is a moving, funny and very tender post! I love it! Sounds like you had a perfect Love Day with your Auntie.

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