Yesterday I had the privilege and the honor of witnessing a real life love story. There was no music…no big white dress…no flowers, no cake, no party. Instead I went with my grandmother to see my grandfather as he struggles for every breath in a nursing home. On September 5th 2008, they will be married seventy years. Right now he is doing his best to survive long enough to see that date.
We walked into his room, a small cinderblock room with a curtain partition for a second man and his family. There was music playing from behind the curtain.
Grandpa’s face lit up when he saw Grandma. “I knew you were coming.”
Grandma asked, “How did you know?”
“You told me. My sweetheart.” Grandma cupped his face, kissed his mouth, stroked his chest then sat down and took his hand. They talked about being together forever. Grandpa would close his eyes and smile as Grandma told the tale of their first date. How there was an early snow storm. The snow was up to the hubcaps. Grandma lived with her parents in what she called a shack way out in the country. Her parents had just moved to the area and stayed in the shack looking for a house to buy. Grandma said she watched for him by the window. Her mother shook her head and said he wouldn’t come.
“But I did come,” Grandpa said, interrupting. His speech was slow and deliberate as he struggled for each breath.
“You did come,” Grandma smiled and patted his hand. “I knew you would.”
She told us he arrived looking so handsome in a suit with a black felt hat and spats!
Grandpa opened his lovely deep blue eyes and smiled. “I knew what I wanted.”
“And you got it,” Grandma said, patting his hand. “You got it.”
Grandpa and Grandma grew up in the depression. With very little education, they worked hard together to create a comfortable living. It wasn’t easy. It’s never easy. There were disagreements, but Grandma tells us Grandpa never swore. He refused to fight. He said there is no fight if the second person doesn’t argue. He is a gentle man who lived through a terrible childhood-as did Grandma. Things were different then. But they found each other and loved each other in spite of it all-doing their best. Nope they aren’t perfect. But there is love and forgiveness and trying. Neither wanted anything else. Love was enough in their relationship, enough to keep them together.
Grandpa hasn’t been well for nearly twenty years. Grandma has cared for him-sometimes over done- to keep him with her. She said it was her privilege. But at age 91, after one too many strokes he now has a very high fever and pneumonia. Grandma can no longer care for him at home. So, they made the hard decision not to run any further tests, not to put him on a feeding tube, but to tuck him up safe in the little room with the yellow painted cinder block walls. Where big strong men can lift him when needed and young nurses can see to his comfort.
They don’t talk about their upcoming anniversary. Grandpa isn’t making promises to hang in any more…but he calls her sweetheart…and kisses and squeezes her hand and you can see in his deep blue eyes his joy, his privilege and his hope to be there on that day. To tell Grandma… We made it.