Jessie Veeder, Published February 08 2014
Coming Home: Learning love from grandparents a gift
This will be the 16th Valentine’s Day I’ve spent with this boy who became my husband. I caught his eye at a time in my life when my mouth was full of braces, I hadn’t yet mastered the art of my hair and my favorite accessory was a smiley face necklace. If he could fall in love with me, I have hope I might be out of the woods when my eyelids start drooping, my hair turns gray and he has to remind me to pluck that one unruly chin hair.
And if all goes well and we stay healthy and relatively sane throughout the course of our lives, my husband and I, at the end of it all, will have spent a lifetime together.
My grandparents on my mom’s side have been married almost 60 years. They fell in love in high school and married soon after before their lives took them across the country, the ocean and back again. Their love gave them four beautiful daughters, 11 grandchildren and now six great-grandchildren.
Throughout my life I’ve had the privilege of being close to them. They spent their autumns after retirement living and taking care of the old farmhouse house down the road from my childhood home, and the summer after I graduated from college, the summer I was getting ready to marry the boy I fell in love with who turned into a man with a ring, I lived with these high school sweethearts in their home in Minnesota.
And I am so glad I did, because what I witnessed gave me hope for lasting, true and honest love.
Between those walls and behind the windows that faced the lake, the sweethearts kept a quiet routine.
My grandmother would take her coffee into bed in the morning and catch up on the news in the nightgown my grandfather no doubt bought her for Christmas that December.
My grandfather would dress and read the paper, then make a list of what needed to get done that day – mow the lawn, clean the boat – then he would get to it while my grandmother worked in her garden, took a swim or met friends in town to play bridge, coming home in time to talk over grilled chicken and mashed potatoes.
And perhaps this isn’t or hasn’t always been true of their life together, as both of them were working parents raising four children in the city. But since I can remember my grandfather always fills his wife’s car with gas and my grandmother is always quick to proudly declare how handsome her husband is.
And in the winter of their lives together, this carries on. I’m sure my mother has much more to say about her parents’ relationship, the affection, the breakfast in bed and the chivalry, but as their grandchild, their love for one another has been a gift to me.
Because it has taught me that long-term love, even if it begins in the fragile and naïve stages of our lives together, is as much about the celebration as it is about knowing when to put mayo on his sandwich. It’s about going out to play bridge and trusting there is someone at home with the light on.
It’s about worrying about the same things while one of you is designated to hold it together.
It’s coffee in the morning, a full tank of gas and compromising on the type of milk to keep in the fridge.
It’s about being proud of each other.
And although I don’t doubt my grandparents have had their share of hard times, I’m going to guess they’ve made sure they’ve had just as many good times to make up for it.
That’s the way they are. That’s how their love goes.
And thanks to them, I have hope that my love can go that way too, in all our seasons together.
Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. Readers can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.