?That?s the kind of love I want someday,? my 20-something nephew said to me as we watched Grandpa make his way through the crowd to her.
All I could do was nod in agreement. I didn?t know anyone in the room that would argue, but to say more would have leveled my defenses against the onset of tears that kept threatening to break the floodgate.
Many of my friends cite Lilly and Marshall from ?How I Met Your Mother,? the couple from ?The Notebook? or Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice as their romantic/relationship role models. For me, it?s always been my grandparents.
While my gram was the love of Grandpa?s life, storytelling is the love of mine. And so, I believe it?s time to tell my favorite love story.
It wasn?t love at first sight, at least not for Gram. ?He was just leaning up against the car. He was so big, I was afraid, I wasn?t getting in the car with him,? I recall Gram telling me once about her first encounter with Grandpa, who in his heyday was a whopping six-foot-six. Gram eventually rode in the car with him, but only because her friend Dale was also. ?He went everywhere with us,? Gram said of Dale. Eventually Gram warmed up to Grandpa. They, however, couldn?t get rid of their companion. ?He went everywhere with us,? she would repeat, overly enunciated ?everywhere? for her rare foray into dramatic effect.
Eventually, Uncle Sam drafted Grandpa into the Army. By July 1953 he was stationed in Indiana when he received word his leave was approved. He raced to the phone and rang his sister, Geneva.
?Tell Ruthie I?m coming home and we?re getting married,? he recounted in the same excited voice he used so many years ago.
So he thumbed his way from Indiana to Ferris, Ill., to marry his Ruthie.
?I never got a say in any of it,? Gram would retort as everyone in the room would begin melting in a puddle of feelings. She may have said it in her famous dry deadpan, but the brief smile that would involuntarily flicker on her face told you it was the best non-decision of her life.
What made their love so impactful and special were the little things. They never fought. They bickered. And that would end when Grandpa would either say, ?yes, Mom? or ?love thy hun.? Whichever was most appropriate for the situation. It was the way she would roll her eyes when he?d begin singing, ?Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone.? Or how they would hold hands whenever they were sitting beside one another.
Their marriage was built on faith; their faith in each other, their faith in their decisions and their faith in the Lord.
Last year, when she was diagnosed with a debilitating lung disease, their love was Gram preparing him for a life without her.
Like most traditional 1950s wives, once the kids were born, Gram became a housewife. She cooked and cleaned and made sure the finances were in order. As Gram?s breathing became more and more labored she had to reluctantly pass the Swiffer off to Grandpa.
?You know, I can sweep and sweep and sweep and think I?ve done a good job and as soon as I put the broom away and go to sit down she says, ?you missed one,?? he told the dietitian who came to discuss Gram?s hospital meals during one of her last stays.
?Well, you did. It was right there,? Gram said with a sly smile. It was the perkiest I?d seen her all day. She passed away a week later.
?It was a wonderful 63 years,? my grandpa said as he gently patted Gram?s hand and gave her one last kiss on the forehead before her casket was closed and we were ushered to our cars and the cemetery for the graveside services.
Gram?s funeral program was placed in a magnetic frame and sits on the front of the fridge, her rare beaming smile facing her favorite spot in the house, the stove.
?She was a beautiful woman,? he said looking at her photo. ?I am a very lucky man.?
Mom joked that Grandpa may have to move Gram to the side of the fridge when he goes to cook. Grandpa just laughed and said he wants her to watch because someday he?ll impress her, until then, she?ll have a good laugh.
That?s the love story that keeps my cynical heart hopeful.