Valentine's Day is an unusual day. It's not really a designated holiday, but for the most part, over the years, it's comfortably positioned itself amongst the other more traditional ones. But what really makes this day so unique is that it's the only day of the year, that's been specifically set aside, to be traditionally celebrated through expressions of love and affection between two people.

Now, I understand that to most of you, this simple definition of love may sound a little flippant or even a little too clinical, but to most people I think it's a "right on" description. Oh sure, on Valentine's Day we may try to elevate the demonstration of our affections to a loved one, by trying to be just a little bit nicer, or even by giving a special gift, but traditionally what the day really stands for is the annual attempt by two people to be more affectionate towards each other. But is that what love is really all about, especially in a marriage, and if it is, then why do we attempt to celebrate it only once a year?

This is a banner year for my wife Verna and I, for during this month of February, we'll be celebrating our thirtieth wedding anniversary. Unlike most married couples, we've never really made a big issue out of Valentine's Day because for the most part, we've always understood, that love, "REAL LOVE," has very little to do with the definition that I'd just previously described.

Through experience, we've both learned to recognize, that "real love," a love that speaks of commitment in a marriage, is not what Valentine's Day portrays it to be. Real love should never be considered as simply fashionable, or played out upon by the timid, meek or cowardly. On the contrary, what real love demands is that those who choose to live by it, not be demanding, seek their own way or hold grudges and unless a person (or child) in a marriage is physically threatened. "Real love," which is patient, kind and always perseveres, always infers that a couple "stays the course" no matter what.

A number of years ago, I worked as a fire captain. I was well respected and admired for the decisions that I made and the strength of character that I projected to those around me. Not to get into details, but one morning, a single incident changed my life completely. Literally, over a very short period of time, my strength of character became depleted, like a sudden loss of wind once held within a ships sails and I became both physically and emotionally unable to continue on in a profession that I dearly loved.

Because of these drastic and sudden changes within my life, my wife and I both struggled to understand the differences taking place within me and how they were affecting our relationship. During those painful years, while sometimes living out our daily lives in fear and misunderstandings, we prayed, hoped and wept for direction. It seemed that for a long time, the only thing that held us together was our faith in God and our devotion and commitment to one another. Life for both of us was very difficult and our relationship became very strained, but through it all, our love and understanding of one another, later blossomed into something more beautiful that words can describe. It was nearly four years after the incident had taken place, that we were both able to comfortable share with one another about our fears and insecurities and finally work some things out. Today, our love for one another couldn't be stronger.

Valentine's Day means lots of different things to all kinds of people. But to me, it just reminds me of how much I really love my wife, what a beautiful person she is and how she sets the example of what I believe love in a marriage should be reflective of. I've never known a more unselfish, understanding and patient person in all my life. I treasure every moment we spent together and deeply admire her for her courage, strength and wisdom. She makes me proud to be around her and everyone that knows her, admires her for her strength of character and the "real lady," that she always is. A little earlier, we discussed what love should be. Well, she's all of those things mentioned above and even more!

I love you, sweetheart. Happy Valentines Day and Happy Anniversary - Here's to another "BIG THIRTY!"

Love you, Bob