Bob waited near the shed, eager to start the spring garden. He was advancing in years, weaker, and less sharp, perhaps, but as loyal a friend as you could ask for, and I loved him.
We shared a passion for gardening, Bob and I, and looked forward to the simple pleasure of digging in the black dirt. It was a bond only a true gardener could understand.
“So, when are you going to retire that old thing?” my husband asked.
I was indignant. “That isn’t very nice. Bob has been faithful and loyal all these years. He’s dug me out of more holes than I care to remember.”
“Well, maybe that’s because ‘he’ is a shovel.”
I resented the ease with which he dismissed my old comrade. “Bob is more than a shovel. Bob is my friend.”
“Dear … it’s a shovel. An old, broken down shovel.” My husband examined the electrical tape that wound around Bob’s handle. “One of these days, you’re going to hurt yourself with this thing. Why don’t you just get a new one?”
“I don’t want a new one. I want Bob.”
“Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.” He turned and walked toward his car, muttering something about asylums for crazy gardeners. I feared he would never understand. My husband, for all his wonderful qualities, knows nothing about the gardening arts.
He couldn’t tell the difference between foxglove and lupine, and the subtle nuances of various salvias were completely lost on him. The closest he ever got to gardening was the obligatory bouquet of roses he bought for me each Valentine’s Day.
No doubt he was on his way to the florist to pick them up as I stood there, surveying the garden spot. I sighed and began digging. Roses were my least favorite gift, followed closely by candy and jewelry. They were cliché; empty gestures that required no real thought. I would have preferred a bag of cedar mulch, or a flat of verbena.
Bob bit into the soil again, and I shoved him down deeper with my foot, then bent and pulled upward on the heavy load. The aroma of freshly dug dirt was released, and for a single moment, Bob and I were in our element; but when I straightened to turn the soil, a terrible thing happened. Bob gave way under the strain. With a giant crack, his handle snapped in two, and he lay there in the dirt, broken beyond anything tape could remedy.
I was still grieving the loss of my friend when my husband returned with the children’s Valentines. They squealed with delight at the boxes of chocolate, but I sat, morose, on the couch.
“What’s wrong?” my husband asked.
“Bob …” was all I could get out.
“Oh honey, I’m so sorry.” He said, sincerely. “I bought you something. Maybe it will make you feel better.”
I forced a weak smile, and braced myself for an onslaught of roses.
“Don’t worry, I didn’t buy you flowers this year.”
“Really? I said, perking up a bit. Perhaps he had been listening, after all.
“And no chocolates either.”
I was intrigued. No roses or chocolates? Where could this be going?
“And, I didn’t get you any jewelry either.”
He had my full attention now. “So what is it?” I sniffed, momentarily forgetting my recent loss.
He reached behind the door and pulled out a big stick.
“Oh. It’s … a stick. Well then. Thank you.” I said. Not the most enthusiastic response, but what else can you say, when your Valentine presents you with a great big stick?
“No, it’s more than a stick. You see, after I drill a couple of holes in it, and attach the D-handle, sharpen up the old scoop and screw it on here, and you’ll have ...”
“Bob!” I cried, and threw my arms around my husband’s neck, shocked and overjoyed.
Bob and I went on to dig many gardens over the years, and each time he sank into the ground, I was reminded of my husband’s thoughtfulness.
It is said that love is a many splendored thing, but I don’t believe it’s as complicated as all that. Sometimes, love is nursing your husband back to health, or changing your wife’s oil. Love can be glorious and noble, but more often, it is humble and content, and sometimes - just sometimes, love is as simple as a Valentine Shovel named Bob.
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