The Telegram

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.


  1. What a lovely story, Megan. So glad you told it. And you told it so very well. Thanks for stopping my place today – I appreciate your presence there each time you breeze through. :>) (And really, REALLY glad last week’s trip was a winner.)

  2. I love that he truly didn’t know…this is just wonderful, beginning to end!

    I’m so glad you joined the Community Writing Project!

  3. A wise man, your dad. One who didn’t have to be told twice.

    My husband is the noticer and rememberer in our relationship. Due in no small part to my special-day ignorance, we were married three years before we finally spent our anniversary together. And even that was in a tent surrounded by teenagers from my church because I scheduled a camping trip with them that day.

  4. Oh Megan. Before I even read one word, I knew this one would be GREAT. I was right.

    Oh. You. You rock the keyboard, you know?

    Really glad you linked.

  5. 🙂 This is dear. I like that he learned the lesson and didn’t have to be told year after year.

  6. I love your dad already! (And…I love your mom, too. 🙂 )

    I remember when my husband forgot my birthday early in our marriage. Long story, but it was one of the best birthdays ever.

  7. smiling at his innocence … and his not forgetting ever after

  8. So sweet Megan. I love his innocence and your Mom’s spunk. It is a story your family will treasure always.

  9. Awww. this is so lovely! and told so beautifully!

  10. What a heartwarming story, Megan…glad your dad was a quick learner, and what a gift to have that kind of love in your family history 🙂

  11. I love that she loved yellow roses and dark chocolate. I love that he was was trainable. I love that you shared this story.

  12. Oh, this is so very good.


  13. Megan – What a beautiful story. I’m so glad that your parents shared this with you so that you can remember it always. Valentine’s Day, of all holidays! I love it.

  14. I love this story. I’m one of those suckers for a “how we met” story. So, I’m leaning in to the details about Chile. That’s pretty cool. My brain isn’t registering romance right now. But I hope I get there soon.

  15. The emotions here feel so exposed and pure. Like strips of bacon frying in a pan. So nice.

  16. Yellow roses, of course!

  17. 1. This is how men learn. Fire, brimstone, a good swat to the ego.
    2. This is the best way for women to train their men. Otherwise he will remain oblivious, regardless if he was brought up in Hamlin or not
    3. I once sent my fiance at the time (now my wife) a silly card, with all sorts of funny jokes in it.. She didn’t know it was from me. Kind of the opposite of your parents situation.

    Great story, Megan!

  18. I love love stories So glad you shared! Who sends an anonymous telegram?!

  19. Worth every penny, indeed. Beautiful story, Megan. I love stories with real people who forget stuff (or are ignorant of stuff) and send angry telegrams…and everyone gets over it.

  20. And how utterly beautiful to have a daughter report the story. Bet your mom is grinning all over heaven!!!