Saturday, June 07, 2008

Love Lessons: Part 1

One of the disadvantages to being a grandchild is that you never see your grandparents as anything but. By the time I entered the world, they were, in my eyes, old and platonic roommates. I didn't think romance and dancing, quiet moments and stolen kisses. I saw hard workers, not lovers. Occasionally, I'd hear of them going off to dances, but I couldn't really wrap my head around this. Wasn't my grandfather the man who came in from the barn only to fall asleep at the table after a steak-and-potatoes meal prepared by my tired grandmother? Where does a night on the town fit in? Euchre, maybe. But sweeping her off her feet?

On their 40th anniversary, my grandmother put on her wedding dress (Yes, it still fit. How intimidating a feat) and danced with her husband. It's one of the few vivid memories I have of him. He died before their 45th.

When I cried at his funeral, I cried for my grandmother. Sure, I was sad that he was gone. And I was sad that my mom lost her dad. But I was mostly devastated for the wife he left behind. For the next 15 years, I found saying goodbye to my grandmother difficult, as I didn't want to leave her alone in the house they built together. Not once (except in jest) was there a hint of another love in her life. He was it.

This week, the day after her funeral, my cousin stumbled upon treasure. In the bottom of my grandma's closet was a paper bag from Eaton's. Inside were neatly stacked letters. All handwritten. All from my grandfather. All carefully folded and tucked back into their original envelopes.

My grandfather, William, only had an eighth grade education. This didn't stop him from writing her letter after letter, sometimes multiple times a week, while he pursued her. I remember him as a man of few words, so to look at endless pages of written affection is so overwhelmingly beautiful to me. And as the letters approached 1949, he started adding X X X X X to his sign-off. Underlined and all.

I've found it difficult to be distraught over the death of my lovely grandmother. She's dancing with her love on the streets of gold. And no one was left behind this time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the beautiful remarks and the way you wrote about my mom and dad, your grandparents. They will always be a special couple in my life. Keep telling the stories that are worth reading; the world needs a lot more moms like mine. I hope I can grow up to be like her!
Your mom and friend for life.