February 14, 2005

Married for More Than 70 Years

Clearly I have made no secret of my distaste for Valentine's Day. It is a day that causes chaos and creates hard feelings, by design or otherwise. It doesn't matter much to me because the end result is often the same. But in spite of this I thought that it might be worth mentioning my grandparents here.

At just short of 36 I am lucky to have three grandparents. Some people would have written surviving but I don't like it, it makes it sound like they beat the grim reaper out of a train wreck or airplane crash.

The three of them are very dear to me, all are turning 91 so I know that each day I have them for is another blessing. They have taught me about every aspect of life you can imagine, there is nothing that I can think of that does not have their imprint in some way or another.

One of my grandfathers is a former carnie and pool hustler turned insurance salesman. The other basically sold insurance during his working years, but he is also a very colorful character in his own way.

And now to the point of the post. My mother's parents will be married a total of 71 years this coming July. Yes, seventy-one years, but they met a number of years before they got married.

They actually are childhood friends who met when they were 11 years-old. Neither of them really remember when they started dating and for that matter neither can remember what angered my grandfather so much that he stopped talking to my grandmother their entire sophmore year of high school. And neither can they remember any more why they started speaking again.

All they know is that they seem to have been made to love and live together. At this point the sad truth is that there is almost no one left who remembers them as two individuals and not a couple.

It would be easy for me to write a dozen or more posts about them and the lessons that I have learned from them and I may yet do so, but for now I want to continue to spend a few minutes on them as a couple.

During the past few years I have watched as they have gradually slowed down, time and age have affected their bodies, but not their minds. My grandmother developed coronary disease and during the early months of last year it looked very grave.

My relationship with the two of them has changed a little, they lean on me more, rely on my strength and I am happy to lend it to them. During my grandmother's hospitalization I watched my grandfather try to be strong for my grandmother, but I was there when he walked out of the room, stricken with fear. And I held his hand and listened to him share his fears about the future.

As I listened to his stories, many of which I had heard before, I fought not to choke up. My grandfather spoke to me as a man in love and from somewhere in the past I could hear the voice of the boy who fell in love with my grandmother when they were both young.

He told me again about how his own grandmother had died the day of their wedding and shared many other stories. I looked him in the eye and promised that it would be ok and I realized that our places had really shifted. The man who looked out for me was still there, but now I had to look out for him.

My grandmother pulled through. She made it and the year moved on. It wasn't much later that we had our scare with the baby and then my father's heart attack and bypass upset the apple cart some more. I felt a little bit like I had been kicked in the teeth, but I did what I do and I kept moving because when things are rough you cannot just lie down.

And in the midst of all of the chaos my grandfather and grandmother both reached out to me, to offer their support. And though I knew that they couldn't really lend it in the same way as when I was but 10, I was pleased. It gave me some peace-of-mind and strength. Together they helped to shore things up and for a brief moment I remember sunday brunches at their old home, movies, walks in the park, ice cream and so many other moments.

This weekend we'll pack the kids up in the car and head back out to see them again. We'll talk about our lives and my grandfather will listen to my stories about life at the office. But the best part will be watching them interact with my children.

My grandfather will tell some more jokes and use the same old coin tricks on my son as he did on my sisters and I. My grandmother will be there, a little quieter but still a strong and steady presence. And again I'll watch and try to bottle the memories, store them where they will be protected and remain clear and unblemished forever.


3 comments:

Irina Tsukerman said...

What a beautiful, inspiring story!

Stacey said...

What a great post and beautiful tribute to your grandparents. How sad that your grandfather's grandmother died on his wedding day. Was it at least after the wedding?

Ms. Vickie said...

What a beautiful inspiring story. You are so wise to treasure this time and bottle up the memories for you will need them one day. Thank you so much for sharing this, you have no idea how much it touched me.