DuWayne Bailey sorted through the dozens of Valentine’s Day cards he just purchased, trying to decide which of his valentines will get which cards.
“This is a really nice card,” he said, picking up a very pretty red-toned card, for someone who’s very close. Pointing to a couple more, he continued, “This is a funny one, and I got this one for the young at heart.” He flourished a Mickey Mouse card.
It’s the busy season for Bailey, who gives out about 60 valentines every year. Today, he’s getting ready for a quiet evening of writing out the cards, to family, to neighbors, to friends, and, naturally, to girlfriends.
“I’m a little bit of a romantic,” said the 70 year-old Snoqualmie man. “I like making people happy… It’s not at all a dirty old man thing.”
Bailey’s annual tradition started almost 20 years ago, when he began sending valentines to his grandchildren.
“It migrated to the kids in the neighborhood, and they all wanted to get valentines, too,” he said. Pretty soon, the kids’ mothers and other women in the neighborhood started hinting that they’d appreciate cards, and Bailey had to make a list.
That list gave one woman in Bailey’s life, his second wife Judy, a twinge of concern early on, he recalled
“I first asked her to marry me, and she said ‘Yes, I’ll marry you, but I am worried about you and all your girlfriends.'”
Actually, they were all just friends, he assured her, and the couple was happily married until Judy’s tragic death five years ago.
“That was a big trauma for me,” Bailey said. Friends and loved ones supported him then, and continue to do so today, he said. “A lot of people take care of me.”
He never stopped his Valentine’s Day tradition, and over time, his list grew longer. Not one for Christmas cards, Bailey said he’d use his Valentine’s Day cards to reconnect with people, hand-writing each one.
Sometimes, a very special lady would get flowers, too and sometimes, but not often, the list got shorter.
“I don’t take anyone off the list,” he explained, but as the children on his list grew up, they also outgrew valentines.
There are still lots of people who appreciate—and expect—their valentines, and Bailey has been in trouble more than once for not sending a card in time.
“If I miss one, I hear about it,” he said. “‘Where’s my valentine?’ they say.”
He can handle a little bit of trouble, though. He’s sort of had practice.
“Some of the husbands are just downright jealous,” he says, with a bit of mischievous satisfaction. “There are lots and lots of wives who go year after year without any of this kind of stuff.”
More than a romantic rival, though, Bailey says his neighbors and friends see him as a father figure, and that’s a role he’s happy to play, with or without his valentine cards.
It takes Bailey several days to complete his valentine project, but it’s time well-spent.
“You try to make every one a little bit special,” he said.