The smell of fresh flowers fills the air as 58-year-old Pamela Druger types on her computer at Augustana College in Rock Island.
Her husband, 62-year-old Paul Lewellan, is working on his laptop beside her. But it’s hard to imagine how he found enough space to do it.
Almost every available inch on Druger’s desk, tables and bookshelves in her corner office is covered with bouquets of flowers and greeting cards: all gifts from her husband for Valentine’s Day.
And those gifts have been trickling in every single day as Lewellan professed his love — over and over again — for his wife during the past five weeks.
Yes, he has been giving her Valentine’s Day tokens of his affection since mid-January. And he does this every year.
“I’m just the luckiest person alive,” Druger said, smiling at her husband. “He’s just a wonderful romantic.”
He’s also making a whole lot of other guys squirm in their seats right about now.
“Well, other guys could do the same thing,” Lewellan said with a laugh.
He always chooses a variety of Valentine’s Day cards and writes special notes inside — some funny, some serious — for his wife of almost 30 years. He also likes to surprise her with flowers and stuffed animals, which she keeps on display year-round.
The prolonged celebration is a way for Lewellan to try to make amends for the years when he was teaching English and speech at Bettendorf High School, and coaching the debate team there. The team’s out-of-town debate trips often ended up happening on Valentine’s Day, which meant he couldn’t spend the holiday with his sweetheart.
“I thought, ‘What a putz,’ ” he said with a laugh. “I’ve got to make up for all of these years.”
So, he began wondering why people celebrate their love for each other on just this one special day. Why not a week? Then he thought that maybe he should shower his wife with affection for an entire month.
But was that enough? He began presenting Valentine’s gifts to his beloved every single day, starting during the first week of January. Yes, every single day for roughly six weeks.
He has cut back since then. Now, he begins bringing her flowers and cards each day for only five weeks prior to Valentine’s Day.
Does she do the same for her husband? No, she said, hanging her head and laughing.
“He’s a writer,” she said. “I’m an accountant.”
“And you’re a good accountant,” he said, looking into her eyes.
“I don’t have the romantic flair to write like him,” she continued.
Oh, that’s just not true, he insists. He then tells how he travels on church mission trips to Guatemala every year or so and how she always hides letters to him in his suitcase.
“I find a letter for every day I’m there,” he said.
Well, that’s only seven to 10 days — nothing like the volume of writing he does to create her Valentine’s season gifts, she said with a smile.
So, can you tell they really love each other? It looks like their relationship is going to stick, they said with a laugh. But Druger didn’t want to fall in love with him. At least not at first, she admitted.
When they met at church, Lewellan was a single parent of two children — ages 3 and 5. He had an old wreck of a car, too, he joked.
In the end, it didn’t matter. Druger fell for all of them. She even adopted the children a couple of years ago, when they were in their 30s.
“We cried all the way through the ceremony,” Lewellan said.
The couple shares four grandchildren.
They work together, too. Lewellan is an adjunct instructor in the business administration and communication studies departments at Augustana. Druger is an accounting professor there.
“We travel together so well,” Lewellan said. “We’re husband and wife, and we’re best friends, colleagues and lovers and all that.”
“We’ve been through the mill together,” Druger said.
She once had a brain tumor and he took care of her as she recovered. He had a heart attack and she took care of him. Their daughter had cancer.
Along the way, their relationship has grown stronger, and Lewellan likes to reflect on that as he writes messages inside all of those cards, he said.
Someday Druger hopes to repay her husband’s kindness with a special gift, she said. Yet her husband just waves her off, praising her instead for showing how much she loves him every day.
“And what about the bar, pool table and two beer fridges I have?” he said, throwing his head back as he laughs loudly.
Yep, that’s gift enough.