The ghosts of Valentine’s Day

David Fong

David Fong

I remember a time in my life when Valentine’s Day truly meant something … when it was filled with cards and candies to go along with passion and romance.

It was a good three-year run I had.

Growing up, I wasn’t a particularly big fan of Valentine’s Day, mostly because I was an unfortunate-looking child with a pretty rotten disposition. Needless to say, that didn’t attract many ladies. Sure, there was the little girl who had a crush on me in second grade and started sending me love notes — but then her mom found out about her clandestine letter-writing campaign and that was pretty much the end of that.

That pretty much sums up the extent of my Valentine’s Day revelry for the first 25 or so years of my life. By the time I reached junior high, high school and college, I had more or less settled on the fact I was incapable of being loved by most everyone. That’s a particularly soul-crushing thought when you realize I went to a college at which 25,000 females were enrolled.

For me, Valentine’s Day became one of the most dreaded days on the calendar. In high school, I used to pray it would fall on the weekend so I didn’t have to watch all of my classmates exchanging cards and stuffed animals and mix tapes and Swatch watch bands and whatever else kids who were in love in the 1990s exchanged when they had found their “one true love.” (I would only come to learn many years later that almost nobody finds their “one true love” in high school, despite what everyone thinks at the time).

In college, Valentine’s Day wasn’t nearly as painful — mostly because I reached the legal drinking age halfway through. That helped take the sting off a little bit, at least.

Still, though, I would spend one day every year wondering what it would be like to have someone with whom to share the little trinkets and baubles that are meant to show someone just how much you care about them. Living at home for the first few years after I graduated college and started working at the Troy Daily News didn’t help much … but hey, at least I could count on a pity Valentine from my mom every February (just kidding … it was better than nothing, Mom).

All of that would change, however, when I turned 25 and met the love of my life (non-pro wrestler category). In 1998, I met the woman who would become my wife and, on Feb. 14, 1999, we celebrated our first Valentine’s Day together as a couple. Truthfully, it was everything I had always imagined it would be. There were cards. And flowers. And candy. And stuffed animals. And jewelry. And original poetry.

It was as if all the Valentine’s Day love I had been building up for 25 years exploded in a giant, pink, gloopy mess. From the outside looking in, it probably made people sick. But I didn’t care, because I was in love and was going to be in love for the rest of my life and Valentine’s Day was going to be the greatest holiday in the world until I died.

And it really did go on like that … for a few years. Then we got married. And then we had kids. And our jobs started taking up more time than ever.

And over time, the romantic dinners were replaced with running kids to various practices and games and grabbing fast food on the fly. Elaborate homemade cards were replaced by text messages saying, “Love u” … when we could remember what day it was. Occasionally, we’ll sleep in the same bed on Valentine’s Day — provided one of our kids isn’t having a nightmare or something.

On Valentine’s Day this year, we literally celebrated by high-fiving one another as we scurried out the door to get the kids to school on time.

Needless to say, Valentine’s Day has become just another day on the calendar in the Fong household.

But you know what? I’m OK with that. Because the fact that my wife puts up with me on Feb. 14 — just like she does the other 364 days of the year — means she must love me. I don’t know if there’s a truer love than seeing all of a person’s foibles and faults — and letting them stick around anyway.

So I’m sorry there’s no card or candy this year, Michelle. But I do love you just as much as I did Feb. 13, Feb. 15, and every other day on the calendar.

Which, after waiting for so long, is more than a card could ever express anyway.

David Fong appears on Thursdays in the Troy Daily News, a division of Civitas Media. Contact him at

David Fong Fong