[Images provided by Where Y'at Magazine Staff and Kaboompics]

Valentine's Day Heartbeats

12:32 February 05, 2017
By: Keith John Paul Horcasitas
It is the day before the big fifty-first Super Bowl, 2017, between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots, and I get to taste test some delicious Valentine's Sugar Cookies that my better half is making to give out to kids on Sunday after church!  
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Maria has the ending score numbers of 4 (Falcons) and 6 (Patriots) per Game Quarter on our church's Super Bowl Pool Fund Raiser Square, that has the $250 quarterly payouts (don't tell the IRS!) for lucky winners!
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With Valentine's Day approaching, I can't help but fondly recall some special moments – that had better include my wife or else! My first kiss … my first date … my first puppy love … my first true love … making that fateful “I do” statement (just kidding, Maria). 

As the youngest of 3, I was always a little slow with picking up on things. My brother and sister lamented when I would constantly tell them that “I didn't get that” while watching Laugh-In as kids since I would then cause them to miss then next punchline. So they had to put up with a lot of things like that and especially my not understanding why guys would want to do anything with gals. 

How can I forget my first innocent kiss with a girl when I was about 7. I don't know exactly how it came about, but I think my brother and sister dared and tricked me into it by promising me one of my favorite candies if I would do that with Gigi, one of our neighbors. So I quickly ran next door, since I played a lot with Drew and Jubi, her brothers, and reluctantly gave her a peck on her cheek - “yuk!” I recalled feeling but looked forward to the Sugar Babbies! 
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Another popular television show back in the late 60s when I was a pre-teen was The Dating Game, and my sister had a board game version of it. She and her friends would constantly be playing it and one day, she let me play with her and some friends. Some way, I won and had to take Karen, another neighbor, on an outing. We used to hang out all the time at the Tulane University Center – near to our home then in New Orleans, so I went with my brother and sister and treated Karen to a lunch. Even as I was beginning to develop an interest in girls at that time, I was also very shy, so I felt kind of embarrassed about this. 

After graduating from high school, David, Scott and I went on a little summer trip to visit Marshall in Cocoa Beach and to Disney World nearby. At this age, I was certainly more interested in trying to date but combined with a shy disposition, I had also begun to consider a religious vocation, so I hadn't dated much at all during high school – never went to the proms, etc. 

During our trip to Florida, we all met Monique and tried our best to impress her. Little did I know that Monique seemed to like me the most, but I was awkward in relating to her in front of my buddies. On the morning before we left for our return to New Orleans, Monique asked me to come out by the beach while David and Scott overslept a few too many beers from the night before. Monique and I had a great time talking in private and exchanged some gifts – I gave her a crucifix ring and she gave me a neat seashell with a prayer inside that she'd written for me that I eventually put into a song. While we never saw each again and mainly corresponded off and on for a few years, that was my first puppy love. 

In college when I was studying undergraduate social work, I was blessed to meet Maria at Xavier University, which was a part of the consortium we participated in also per Loyola University and Dominican College. While I certainly felt attracted to Maria and shared many common faith and social justice involvements with her, I still was considering a possible religious vocation and used to informally meet with the Holy Cross priests for discernment. Eventually, I realized that I was being called by God to the marriage vocation, and I began to correspond with Maria while I was out in California doing volunteer work with the Jesuits as a lay person. This was to develop into the first true romantic love experience that I would have. 

After a courtship and engagement, we began to meet with a the late Fr. Harold Boggs SJ, who was the brother of the late LA Congressman Hale Boggs and the brother-in-law of former LA Congresswoman Lindy Boggs. Fr. Boggs provided us great input and premarital counseling, as we were in the normal throes of having “fallen in love” with each other and needed the reality check of discerning and discovering if we were actually capable of “being in love” with each other. We also benefited greatly from insights and sharing of Mack and Lorraine, a married couple Maria and I met with for about 7 sessions over the course of about 3 months prior to our wedding per the diocesan “Evenings for the Engaged” program. 

How can we ever forget the Homily that Fr. Boggs gave us at our Sacrament of Matrimony in the summer of 1983 at the Most Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans that involved the 3 L's: Love, Loyalty and Laughter. As Fr. Boggs so wisely noted, for a marriage to grow and be sustainable, we need all three of those key components daily working in our committed lives. It is neat how Fr. Boggs used a similar metaphor for when he presided at my sister's wedding a year after Maria and I got married. He noted that you need 3 Bones to develop and enrich a marriage: the Backbone, the Wishbone and the Funny-bone! 

Dr. John Fulwiler, the photographer for our wedding, actually was our indirect “matchmaker!” Maria and I met per our undergraduate social work consortium “Social Welfare” class that he taught at Xavier . So it was neat when we had found out that he did moonlighting as a photographer, and did a splendid job if I may say so myself! A subsequent class of John's that I took, “Intro to Gerontology,” helped me to formulate my own specialty in that field. 

While not being specialized in marital therapy, it is amazing how “little things” can become big when not openly addressed. Right before we got married, I recall one of those inevitable communication conflicts that any couple can expect in the course of courtship and marriage. 

As Maria and I were finalizing our wedding details not long before the event, I recalled one night when we left one another per an unresolved dispute. I had always loved Psalm 23, so I hoped to use it for our wedding. That night, when I told Maria about that, she noted that would be very difficult for her as that psalm was what had helped get her through the grief she had experienced over her father's death many years earlier. A clear line was drawn in the sand, and it almost looked like we weren't going to get married just because of the issue. How could that one mole be transformed into such a mountain? 

A day later, when “cooler heads prevailed,” I realized that I certainly didn't want Psalm 23 to become our “swan song," so we found a way to work together and use another agreed upon tune. That example certainly reflected the daily “dying to self” that we all have had to experience at times in our lives, and that has been the glue for us in our marriage these past 33 + years. 

On the light side – the “Laughter” and “Funny Bone” per Fr. Boggs, it is neat to know that Maria and I spent the first night of our honeymoon at a convent! Before heading back to San Diego, where we lived in the second half of my graduate school – and before heading to Hawaii for the remainder of our honeymoon, we stayed at the “Villa Convento,” formerly owned by the Ursuline Nuns! In walking distance from Arnaud's Restaurant, where we had dinner after our mid-day wedding, we had a very romantic setting that included our own French Quarter Courtyard. 

So I send my 2017 Valentine's Day Greetings to Maria and look forward to making many more cherished memories "till death do us part" – and hope that I can stay out of the doghouse most of the time till then!
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