Valentine of Year award goes to friend at church

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I think God gave us Jerry because he knew we'd need a man to spoil us."

Another gem from the lips of the littlest child floated past me once again in the bathroom last week. It is amazing how many conversations take place at our house in the main powder room before 7 a.m.

I suppose it's because I'm trapped for a few minutes, trying to disguise lack of sleep with the magic powders. Thus I am target for everything from grade-school jokes to signing permission slips overdue by days.

Now, there will be among some of you a raising of hackles, a rearing back on mental haunches at my daughter's declaration. Relax. This kid has a tremendous contingent of strong women in her world. This past year has pointed out only too well the need to be independent and wise in the ways of fixing things, the value of the company of women, the importance of self-worth and a deep faith. Trust me on this.

But this is the same girl that lived for nearly 11 years lived with a man who knew how to treat women. All my children watched David surprise me with flowers, sneak gifts under my pillow, leave frothy cards propped on the steering wheel for me to find.

Every daughter watched their daddy delight me with my first cell phone, secretly purchasing it, hiding it in my purse, then calling me on it as I headed off to an interview -- I thought the engine was going ballistic.

His generosity and spontaneity, that sheer sense of fairy tale, were infamous among our friends. No one begrudged my situation, but I sometimes heard "You are so lucky!" or "He is such a romantic."

Oh, he was that. This is the guy who kept checking with the phone company until my childhood phone number was open and we could get it for the fax line, all undercover. The man who came by work and left candy bars in my desk drawer when I was out on assignment. Who brought sushi home in ice before it was available locally.

Sigh.

As strange as it sounds, this whole last year has been more of the same. We've been "spoiled" and then some, through surprises and open acts of great kindness and fun twists. Like a year of Valentines. Not so much acting as a dam to our flood of grief, but lifeboats we could board for a little rest from the river. You know all that, I've recorded many of those events in this column and on my blog.

And then there is Jerry.

Just so you know, Jerry is a very shy guy and I will probably be in trouble once this publishes. But if you're going to suffer through the hard stuff, you get to rejoice in the good.

Jerry has always been very nice to all of us, greeting us warmly as soon as we arrive at church. He and his wife have brought us meals and -- woe is any diet -- the incredible desserts she makes. He used to joke around with David and trade car talk. Jerry's smile is quick and genuine and it's difficult to stay grumpy in his presence.

Sometime in the past year -- for some reason I am the most sad at church over the loss of David and the last 12 months have been a blur -- Jerry began filling Dad's shoes, just a little. He never fails to ask the girls how things are going, then really listen to their answers. He's got a joke or two and a big hug the minute we step into church.

And Jerry has gum.

I'm not sure if this is a conscious thing or not, Jerry and his Trident or whatever it is for the week. Gum was something for which Dad could always be counted on. It was dispensed at church or on car trips to quiet talkative mouths. Stick by stick, gum was handed over as payment for a load of laundry folded or the dishwasher unloaded. Not by me ... my policies were tighter.

Chewing gum was Dad's currency and love note all in one.

Even so, it was one stick a time. Youngest daughter pointed that out, too. "Jerry gives us a whole pack," she said, her eyes checking mine to see if this news was going to raise an objection.

It's not. I love that there is a wonderful guy in my daughters' lives, someone who has added to a template for the traits they should look for in a partner. A man like Jerry, who treats his wife with respect and kindness and offers my girls the same.

With a fine sense of humor as a bonus.

I just want to tell the humble and modest Jerry that he is our Valentine of the Year, and I want to tell him right here in public. He'll blush, but he'll get over it.

For all the men reading this, let me encourage you to think about Jerry's example. My children are blessed by a number of honorable men in their lives, but that is not the case for every fatherless child. Kids are growing up all over this Valley with no role model in men's clothing.

It's not so hard, buying a pack of gum for a kid. Ask Jerry.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom or by calling 509-526-8322.

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