This story is offered for Jennifer Dukes Lee’s blog carnival on marriage

If my dad had not complained about an anonymous telegram, he and my mom might never have gotten married.

My parents met in 1965 on an exchange program to Chile with the University of Texas. He was known as “the cowboy” (although he really was a farm boy — this will be important later in the story), and she was the cosmopolitan girl, fluent in Spanish, with good political connections. She was seeing someone else, but six weeks at the bottom of the world changed everything. She and my dad fell in love on the beach at Quinteros and stayed that way.

When they returned to Texas, Mom helped Dad campaign for student body president at UT, and he was elected. That meant he was rather busy — too busy to remember Valentine’s Day.

At least, that’s what Mom thought. Why else would a man forget Valentine’s Day? So she sent him an angry —anonymous — telegram.

A week went by. Dad didn’t mention the telegram.

They met for lunch at an out-of-the-way restaurant favored by members of the Texas Legislature. Dad talked about student body president stuff. Mom kept waiting for him to apologize for missing Valentine’s Day. Or, at least, to mention that telegram. Finally, he did.

“I got this strange telegram,” Dad finally said. “It wasn’t signed.”

I can imagine Mom pursing her lips together. “What did it say?”

“It said, ‘You’re a jerk!’” I can’t imagine who would send such a thing.”

“I sent it,” Mom said.

I can imagine Dad looking confused. “Why?”

She proceeded to tell him off, with four-letter words that I never once heard her say. But they included such sentiments as, “You forgot Valentine’s Day? We are practically engaged, you — !”

Dad took his lumps, but here’s the thing: he truly didn’t know that forgetting your girlfriend on Valentine’s Day was a crime. In fact, he hardly knew that Valentine’s Day existed. It wasn’t celebrated on the cotton farm in Hamlin where he grew up. Even birthdays weren’t always celebrated on the farm. There was too much work and too many durn boys running around. (Dad was one of four sons.)

Needless to say, Dad never forgot another Valentine’s Day. He said that other holidays could be adjusted a day or two. If Mom’s birthday fell on a Wednesday, she could wait until Friday night to celebrate. Not so with Valentine’s Day. It was celebrated on February 14, no matter what else might be going on.

“After that, I spent a fortune in yellow roses, dark chocolate, red wine,” Dad told me.

“Worth every penny?” I asked.

“Worth every penny,” he said.