The week around Valentine’s Day usually means an abundance of red, glittery hearts, balloons, flowers, and rom-coms on repeat. But, this Valentine’s, I started thinking about the true love stories I’ve been privileged to witness and be a part of. About a month ago, my cousin posted this photo of my grandparents. We’re not sure what my grandmother won a trophy for (part of me suspects its for one of her prize flowers), but what struck me was how much this snapshot reveals about my their relationship. It’s been nearly six years after both of them have passed, but I still vividly remember the deep love and affection they had for each other.
Growing up, we knew the basics of my grandparents’ love story. My grandmother was a somewhat shy and private woman, and was never comfortable talking about love or making public displays of affection where my grandfather was concerned. Every New Year’s, my cousins and I would goad them into kissing each other, which my grandfather happily did. Just like in the photo, my grandmother would laugh, then quickly say, “Augusto, husto na!” (Augusto, enough!). My grandparents were married for over sixty years, but it wasn’t until my grandmother’s funeral that we all found out exactly how they met.
My grandmother and her family moved to our hometown from the North when she was just a teenager. Her father, a teacher, had taken on a new post as principal. They joined a local church that my grandfather’s family also attended. The church still stands near my family home. One Sunday, my grandmother was asked to play the piano during service. My grandfather said he’d never seen a girl more beautiful or graceful. It was love at first sight. When news came that the Japanese were coming, several church families fled to the hills. While there, my grandfather would often check on my grandmother and her family to make sure they were okay. Now I know why my grandmother’s answer to how she knew my grandfather was The One was: “Well, he was the only one around for miles!” I thought it was her way of evading the question, but now I know she was telling the truth. Still, after the war ended, my grandfather continued to court her. He waited until she had finished her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration before they got married. After telling this story, my grandfather went on to say many wonderful things about my grandmother, and nothing made me feel more sadness and love for him than when he said his goodbyes to her and asked that she wait patiently for him to join her in Heaven. She would only have to wait about a year.
Living in the same house as my grandparents meant being able to witness another great example of what a marriage can be. Their personalities were markedly different. My grandfather was gregarious and outgoing. He could talk to anyone and make them feel comfortable. He knew how to make people laugh. My grandmother was more reserved, though with her close friends she was animated and open. But, despite these differences, they were very much the same at the core. They talked to each other—really talked—and always showed a united front. I never saw them get angry or stay angry with each other for very long. They held hands every night as they went to sleep. They laughed together a lot. If my grandmother got dolled up for an event, I could see my grandfather openly admiring her. Even when my grandmother would give my grandfather a hard time about something, he would just turn to me and say, “See what I have to live with? Terrible woman…” all the while shaking his head and smiling fondly at her.
I look at Mr. D and hope that years from now our children and grandchildren (yikes!) will see us the same way: two people who aren’t just comfortable with each other, but who genuinely enjoy being together. The other day, Mr. D and the little one were sitting on the couch. She looked at him for a while and then suddenly leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. When he asked her what that was for, she replied: “I see you do that to Mommy all the time.” Maybe we’re on the right track.
What are your favorite family love stories? We’d love to hear them (and collectively say: Awwww….)!