Letter to my Valentine

by Cari Hurley

Opinion Contributor

Valentine’s Day often brings images of candy, flowers, and expensive dates to mind.  However, the holiday originally started to commemorate St. Valentine’s devotion to love and I plan to celebrate all of the love I have in my life on February 14th.  Though I will be thinking of my wonderful boyfriend, Adam, I will also be remembering the start of another loving relationship this year: the beginning of my friendship with Abigail, a twenty-year old young woman with special needs.

        The first time I met Abigail, I was serving her high school class after my freshman year of college.  Though communication was difficult to initiate because of her physical limitations, I sensed a connection with her. That connection and my fondness for her blossomed as the internship progressed. Consequently, I was thrilled when Abby’s mom and dad, two amazing parents, offered me a new job, working for Abigail in her home.

At first, I constantly worried about making mistakes, especially with regards to her physical needs.  However, she quickly made me feel at ease.  One of the funniest moments we’ve had together was when her healthcare equipment became detached.  As soon as I realized this, I began frantically Google-searching everything I could about her equipment and hysterically tried to keep Abby and myself calm.  Despite my panic, Abby laughed hysterically for almost ten minutes, to the point where her eyes flooded with tears and her face turned red as a tomato.  At that moment, I realized that while keeping her safe was of utmost importance, being a friend was just as essential.

Since then, we’ve gotten into so many other shenanigans.  Together, we’ve played countless games of Big Trouble, read several great books, and made many crafts.  But the best part of our friendship is getting to know her. Outsiders might assume that she cannot communicate because she uses a wheelchair and is unable to talk.  They don’t know that she truly says a lot if you’re there to listen.  It’s true that we use a lot of “yes and no” questions, but we have great conversations about everything from crushes (don’t worry, Adam, that’s you) to today’s music, especially because I feel we are connected by this inexplicable wavelength of understanding.   

The most important part of her communication is that she can always keep me smiling.  I remember one day early on, she was listening to her iPod and gently set her hand down to rest on my lap, a gesture that felt like the ultimate form of respect and trust. On the way home, I bawled because I was starting to feel an amazing connection with her.

          I’ve been “working for Abby” for about eight months and have recently begun feeling a sense of pride of in her accomplishments.  This winter, she started skiing and has absolutely loved rushing down the slopes.  We’ve watched the home video of her zooming down the hill countless times and I am overjoyed that she has braved the winter elements and embraced the adventure.  I do not ski with Abby, but I nevertheless hope that maybe one sliver of our time together helped her accomplish that feat.  I know that her friendship has brought abundant joy to my life.  Working for my “boss,” Abigail, has also helped me to truly be myself.

    Though it may seem strange that I am thinking of a friend over Valentine’s Day, it is only natural to me to write an unconventional valentine for Abigail, who, herself, has been diligently creating valentines for her family members. Valentine’s Day is about love, and certainly, friendship is the greatest love a person can find.  Happy Valentine’s Day, Abs.

 

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