Saturday, February 14, 2015

My Valentine, remembered

The year of our courtship was 1988, 

before home emails, Skype, 
inexpensive international calling, text messaging, 
and all the rest of the advances in communications technology 
that today smooth the way for long distance romances.

We did have email at the global firm where we were employed 
(on different sides of the Atlantic), 
but it was cumbersome and, 
in Gerrit's case, was managed by his secretary.
Before we announced our engagement, 
our courtship was kept secret from our workmates and families.
So we developed a secret code when communicating by business email:
any use of a superlative meant "I love you."
His secretary would send the emails he composed:
"The meeting yesterday with the client was excellent."
And I and the other addressees on the email 
would know that it was an excellent meeting,
but only I would know that Gerrit loved me.

At the time, the Netherlands phone system was a monopoly, 
and the cost of a long distance phone call was about four times the price 
if he called me instead of me calling him. 
So if he wanted to talk, he called and we immediately hung up
so I could call him back.
This was also before the five cent a minute international calls,
so it was still a very expensive communications tool.
But oh so appreciated.

Letter writing comprised much of our correspondence; 
I'm grateful to be able to hold in my hand all the letters he wrote.

I wrote the post below in 2008, 
four years into Gerrit's diagnosis of vascular dementia
and four and a half years before he died.
I wouldn't wish him another minute of the very compromised life
he had been reduced to, but I miss him very much.


February 14, 2008
Ours was a long distance courtship.
We lived in different countries.
He wrote from wherever he was traveling.

Our phone bills were astronomical.

We wrote to each other a lot.

I looked forward to seeing her smiling face in my mailbox.

Included in the letters was G’s first attempt at a Valentine.
He was on a business trip to Portugal.

“No Valentines to be found anywhere over here,” he wrote.

“Personally I have no experience
with this piece of American culture.”

“I don’t know whether such cards should be
funny or romantic or what?”

“I hope that you will forgive me sending you
most probably
the most misplaced Valentine card ever,
but remember it comes straight from my heart.”

How could I resist?


  1. Oh, Ginnie! Thank you so very much for sharing your beautiful love story! It is filled with romance, passion, international traditions, secret codes, navigating the time differences, and so much LOVE! All of these beautiful letters and your photos must be your most cherished possessions! One day, I would love to hear more of your love story, over a cup of tea. Savor the beautiful memories. True love stories never have endings. May your day be filled with sweet memories, dear family, friendship, and joy! ♡

  2. It is a beautiful story. And he was a very beautiful man.

  3. This is such a beautiful love story and I echo everything that has been said above. You both were truly blessed to have found each other. I know that he is in your heart forever.
    I am so thrilled to hear from you. Truly, I can't tell you how many times I have thought of you and hoped that all was well. I do understand what a difficult journey this has been. Sending love and good thoughts your way, Ellen.


Thank you!