The daughter of St. Valentine’s jailer, Asterius, was blind. According to legend, St. Valentine restored the young woman’s sight. She immediately fell in love with him.
It was believed on the eve of his death, he wrote her a letter on flowery paper. The letter ended with his final salutation, “from your Valentine.”
We all hope to hear from our valentine. A delicate gift may be left on the doorstep. An affectionate card may be delivered to our mailbox, or a heart-shaped box of chocolate may find its way to our desk or workplace.
Today is a special day for another reason. For the first time since 1945 — 73 years — St. Valentine’s Day coincides with Ash Wednesday, a solemn day set aside by Christians as a day of love, as well. Ash Wednesday is celebrated in churches all over the world.
One may find oneself on the horns of a dilemma. How do Christians mark St. Valentine’s Day, a day for romantic love, and Ash Wednesday, a day of sacrificial love and a day of traditional penance and abstinence?
In our home, Brenda cooked a light, meatless meal of haddock, three red potatoes, a simple glass of water, and a lemon squeezed to cleanse the pallet, with its slight fragrance and piquancy.
After our meal was finished, our minds drifted back to earlier in the day when the priest had shaded our foreheads with ashes and the words he recited, taken from Genesis 3:19, echoed in our hearts: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
Afterwards we walked into our living room, sat by the fireplace, dimmed the lights, and spoke of the feelings that warm our hearts and souls.
We spoke about how our lives have been blessed over the years. How our travels have been many and eventful; to the sunshine and white sands of Naples, Florida where we stood in the Gulf of Mexico and watched the sun fade into the blue waters of the bay.
We thought of the grand locomotive rumbling through the small towns of North Carolina as the stars twinkled when we entered Charlotte, and the silent, venerated battlefields of the Civil War.
“Do you remember our trip from Maysville, Kentucky, over to Ripley, Ohio, and along the Ohio River, when we stopped for candy and the ice cream sodas in the small-town drug store?” Brenda asked.
“I sure do,” I replied.
“A trip along the Ohio River will be my Valentine’s Day gift to you this year. We have had a hard winter with the ice, snow, and the dreary days. Spring will be here soon, and the warm weather will bring people outside. We will watch the mushroom hunters tramp through the woods, and kids bounce along the bobbling creeks. The streams will be clear from the snow, and the rain will no longer be cold. It is time for us to take the trip you’ve always wanted to take, but we’ve never found the time to take it,” Brenda said.
Her words made me smile.
We have a movie room in our house decorated with movie memorabilia and life-sized posters. John Wayne, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Marshal Matt Dillon look over our shoulders the nights we watch the cowboys ride across the screen.
On special nights, like Valentine’s Day, Cary Grant and Dean Martin stand alongside the TV screen as we watched Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains in the movie, Casablanca.
As the closing credits drifted across the screen, our conversation drifted back to the Ohio River and Brenda’s special gift to me. As a boy, I was like millions of other kids who admired Davy Crockett. My dream was to dress in buckskins, carry a flintlock and wear a coonskin cap.
For the longest time, I thought Davy Crockett and the River Pirates was filmed in Maysville, Kentucky and locations near Cincinnati.
After some research, I discovered many of the scenes were filmed along the Ohio River in Union County, Kentucky and neighboring Cave-In-Rock, Illinois.
After Easter, we will load up the car and head south to Kentucky. We’ll follow the Ohio River past Henderson, and drive a few more miles before we enter the big-mouth opening to Cave-In-Rock where Mike Fink and Davy took on the river pirates and ‘Bigfoot’ Mason.
In the meantime, for the next 40 days, we will mark Lent by fasting, both from food and festivities.
At first glance it may be hard to see what St. Valentine’s Day, Forty Days of Lent, and to a lesser degree, a frontiersman have in common.
Maybe it shows that love can be interconnected with the people we love and the things we love to do, whatever they might be.
On this day, we are thankful for our Valentine, our blessings, and to know the most rewarding part of sharing love with others helps make the most of their lives.
This, in turn, helps make the most of mine.
Pat Haley is a Clinton County Commissioner.
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