In February of 1971, Duane came home from Vietnam. He was different—of course he was. He was older and quieter and cold all the time because he’d come from summer to winter in the space of a long plane flight.
I was different, too. I’d become a mom in the time he was gone, a story I’m not telling because any wounds that came from it are long healed. Even though I loved Duane, I was reluctant to complicate his life the way I’d complicated my own. I had a child to raise—anything else was secondary.
But then my baby was saying “Dada” (he never said “Mama”) and climbing all over Duane and starting to walk. To Duane, not to me. So Duane asked me if, when I chose to marry, I’d allow my husband to adopt my son. I said that would depend on who it was and he said he’d certainly want to if it were him.
I said I didn’t know who else it would be. Because, after all, the kid called him “Dada” and walked right to him.
And we lived happily ever after.
I don’t know if 1971 was my best Valentine’s Day, because we’ve had a lot of good ones over the past 44 years, but it was probably the most special. Happy Valentine’s Day to the man who is still my hero after all these years.