The Greater Gift by Mary Lou Sanelli

Sunday, March 10, 2013 2:33 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

New Year's. It's always a Big Deal. For a few days, it's all anyone can talk about. Next, it will be all about little red hearts. It all comes around so quickly.

February means something else, to me anyway. First, I have a deep affection for those sugary pastel hearts set out in crystal bowls all around the city. I pinch one at a time, of course, but in my mind's eye I see a woman scooping the entire medley up and filling her pockets.

Who knows why we connect with some candies and not with others. Love is really something, isn't it?

Secondly, it makes me step back and question a few real things about love between people, like who is there for you no matter what, who isn't any longer and, for the love of Pete, why not?

And I thought my fingers would fly over the keyboard with some sweet little story about romantic love, a.k.a. my Larry. But, no.

Instead, another man fills my thoughts. . .

I visit my father annually on Long Island Sound, but he hasn’t returned to Seattle since Larry and I married, referring to Puget Sound as "God's country," and that is just about the highest compliment my father can extend.

On the morning of our wedding, the clouds we'd hoped would burn off only swelled, the day becoming more and more May-like, restless, sprinkly, spring. The kind of weather that can make pulling off a wedding on a shoestring budget feel even more overwhelming. I was fidgety, worried that the clouds would turn into a downpour or, even worse, drizzle all day.

My father took one look at me staring up at the sky, and a longer look at who Larry and I were together, both of us a little frayed and scruffy to someone from the more formal East Coast school of wedding appropriateness. And when his eyes spanned the little wood-floored room we'd rented for our reception, a schoolhouse in the tiny town of Dungeness on the Olympic Peninsula, he spied the keg of beer in the corner.

He looked at me as if he might want to say something, but he never did. He just crossed the room, stepped outside, closed the door behind him, got into his rental car, and disappeared.

If it hadn't been my wedding day, I might have found it disconcerting, even scary. Instead, I could feel the sides of my cheeks expand into an even wider smile.

An hour later he was back, his arms around a case of liquor, plenty more where that came from, until vodka, gin, scotch, and brandy bottles, plus every mixer imaginable, were perfectly aligned next to the cake. "You think an Italian can have a wedding without the real stuff?," he asked.

But it wasn't a question. And he winked after he said it, and that was unquestionably the greater gift. I will remember the satisfied look his face until the day I die.

As a second present, bless him, he gave us enough money to, in his words, "get started," wisely neither too much as to make Larry uncomfortable, nor too little to make me so, because an Italian father's generosity is legendary and I'd grown up with it, my legend, my superstar, my Valentine, my dad.

February. It's all about love.

Mary Lou Sanelli

Sanelli's latest book is "Among Friends". She works as a writer and speaker. For more information about her work, visit
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