Wow. Another Valentine’s Day has come and gone. Doesn’t time just zip right by, though?

My dad was born on Valentine’s Day, which, around our house, didn’t make his birthday all that special. See, my mother was born on New Year’s Eve, and I was born on Easter Sunday. My sister Moira was born on St. George’s Day, the English equivalent of St. Patrick’s Day, only much quieter. My sister Betty was born on Cinco de Mayo, but that didn’t mean as much when we were growing up in Scotland in the 1950s.

Maybe it’s because the annual salute to love, or maybe it was because I was actually out of the house, driving for the first time in two weeks, listening to an old cassette, but I was really struck with some of the overwrought things we say in the name of love.

I was listening to the Canadian band Honeymoon Suite (told you it was an old cassette) singing ‘What Does it Take:’ “If I could fly high, I would give you the sky.” Obviously it’s a wonderful lyric, well sung, but really? As a declaration of love, it’s pretty easy to say isn’t?

And take any song by The Carpenters, and you’ll find pointless observations about love on top of silly things to say about the object of your affection: “Why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near, just like me, they long to be, close to you.” No, they don’t. And the bit about the angels getting together to “sprinkle moon(something) in your hair and golden starlight in your eyes of blue.” No, they didn’t.

I know what you’re thinking, “OK, Mr. Smarty Pants. We danced to ‘Close to You’ at our wedding and still love the song. What would you think is a great love song? In fact, what did you and Sheri dance to at your wedding? ‘Send in the Clowns’?”


Ha Ha. I don’t really know what makes a love song for you. For me, the lyrics have to tell a story I recognize and have lived through, in one form or another. Or maybe it just had to be playing on a jukebox or radio when I was falling in love, mostly unrequited, for the umpteenth time.

It’s also hard for a song to talk about the things that people do to show how much they love someone, rather than just talk and/or write poetry about it. Most of those things, on the surface at least, just don’t seem romantic: holding someone’s hand as they are being sick, rather than closing the bathroom door and turning up the TV; someone saying, “It’s only a car,” after you have stupidly backed into their car while it was sitting in the driveway; someone you can get into a horrible argument with and know they will still be there when the smoke clears; someone who actually loves you despite of, not because of.

Sheri and I, for example, knew we loved each other long before the Friday night in September when I told her I had cancer, changing our lives forever. It was difficult to tell her because I knew she would be hurt and worried for me, not because I was afraid she was liable to say, “That’s it for you then!” as she packed her stuff and left.

True, by that time we had already done a lot of hard work on setting boundaries, letting the other person be, letting them make their own mistakes.

The biggest thing we had to do is actually in the answer to the question of what song we danced to at our wedding: “And So it Goes,” by Billy Joel. We had both been married before, and I was coming off an ultimately unsuccessful long-term relationship. Sheri and I each had our shields up, phasers on stun. We talked and talked about getting involved, and our relationship truly began when we were each able to say, “You can have this heart to break.”

I was talking to Sheri’s sister a while ago about my cancer and bringing her up to date on my treatment, when the following words came out of my mouth: “If you had told me when Sheri and I started going together that the next 20 years would have been as (mostly) wonderful as they have, but as part of the deal I was going to get really sick with multiple myeloma at the end of the 20 years, I would have taken that deal… no regrets, then or now.”

Jim Arnold is a copy editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. His blog about his fight against cancer can be found at

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: