Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Day of One of the Triumvirate of Ultra-Popular Shadowy Figures

Today is, in sooth, vague: Saint Valentine's Day.
 And Love - love is vague at times, a shifting of feelings no matter its target.
And so here is the telling of the myth according to Yours Truly.
This is the recollected feast day of Saint Valentine, as nebulous a figure as, perhaps, Santa, and Christopher Columbus.
And more.
Although some would argue about the latter.
But what is meant is that some holidays are celebrated with very little factual base.
Yours Truly does ever so much Love this inclusive secular holiday, with Saint Valentine its central enigma.
There were several Valentines, martyrs entombed and exhumed and displayed bearing that verysame name.
Valentine was, allegedly, a physician, and he probably treated all sorts of love-related ailments: broken hearts, flushed in-love faces, trembling of certain body parts at different phases of the moon/Love, and venereal diseases.
He may have mis-diagnosed a Roman senator and therefore lost his head.
Whereupon he lost his head not to guillotine but the more savage sword, and it plunked to the ground with a thud, there sprang a cathedral.
Or was it a basilica.

What prevailed was the desire to fete desire.

And mouth to mouth to mouth the story of Valentine who lost his head passed along to today's papery cupids, thematic hearts, and confections.

And all things Red.

And now thoughts meander to recollections of my own tradition, the Red Dinner which has been happening for fourteen years - next year will be the fifteenth anniversary. This is the large, three-dimensional Valentine to some of my favored people with the serving of an all-red menu (or shades thereof), and the opening my house for a sanguine, mid-winter revel.

Now onwards to Santa, who was feted a few months back, at the beginning of winter in what people this season in the Middling City and even in the Shiney Apple decry as an interminable one. YT, for the record, Loves winter, and would prefer a wave of chill to a suffocating hot and humid day.

YT does not recall ever believing in Santa because my older cousin Steve informed me that there was no Santa. I do not recall feeling sad about this, but feeling factual.
And I have always known both that Steve was responsible for my non-Santa childhood beliefs, and that Steve was, in part, the reason for my absolute preference for what is real. Cartoons would be bothersome to me as a child with their unfactual happenstances.

Steve was one of two older boy cousins who stepped in as sort of informal big brothers, who we saw a great deal of on family outings, including the hilarious and legendary family picnics, and Sunday dinners.
The tales of our older cousins' adventures were educational.
As were there album collections.

Steve was a daredevil, in my memory now he seems like he was like a stuntman who seemed to want to push himself to new, frequent stunts by jumping off of roofs, or from moving cars, etc.
Steve is occasionally seen in family photographs with arms in casts. And although I can still hear his uproarious laughter (my mother comments that me, like Steve, and other lively and artful members of the family take after her side of the family - the infamous Jaworski clan) there are very few shots of him smiling.

My last visit with Steve, and the rest of the family who migrated to Texas, seems utterly magical: a fast car we took turns driving in the desert with loud music and the feeling that nothing bad could happen with this familial energy. Big family dinners, much Love.
Steve served in the Marines, and I wrote him letters while he was away at what seemed like prison. He sent one of those stiff Marines portraits to my aunt, and we each got one wallet-sized print.
After returning things didn't seem quite right with Steve, the structure that he had was no longer part of the regimen of life and he seemed to drift away.
No, he absolutely drifted away, to California and all that I saw of him after that were a few photographs.
I would ask my mother several times a year about him, where he was, and always heard the same We don't know.
It was assumed, by YT, and, I assumed by the entire family of Steve's relatives, that he was dead.
About a month ago, as I was crossing Grant Street on a very sunny day, I called my mother to say hello and ask if she'd like anything from the specialty market that I was heading into.
She said Oh honey, I have some very terrible news.
And it was that my cousin Steve was, in actuality, dead.
That he had been alive all these several years in Texas,and she named the small city.
And he had died alone in his apartment after having a surgery at the VA Hospital, bled into himself and died alone.
I was shocked to hear that he had been alive all these years, and then, of course, sad to hear of his sad ending.
My mother would later tell me that Steve had several projects in his apartment that he'd been working on - creative projects of all genres.
I said to my mother at another time how I attribute my quest for real, in part, to Steve.
Our birthdays are three days apart so I always thought of him (will always think of him) on 10/13. 
It's good to know one's sources.

Love of Love - A Mystery.