On Anniversaries and What Has Changed in Relationships
My grandma once told me a story about how she met my grandpa.
Her mother told my grandma to drop out of high school. My grandma was only 16 years old at the time. My great-grandma said that my grandma needed to work to earn money to help support the family.
Whatever her feelings on the matter, my grandma dropped out and went to work. I knew my grandma for 17 years before she passed away. I never heard her complain about anything but I know she was disappointed she had to leave school. She had wanted to be a schoolteacher. Anytime we talked about the past or careers, my grandma would tell the story of being asked to drop out of school and end it with, “I always wanted to be a schoolteacher.”
After dropping out, my grandma eventually attended a night class to work towards her high-school diploma. Her friend Hannah was in class with her, as was my grandpa, although my grandma hadn’t met him yet.
My grandpa and Hannah were childhood friends. My grandpa once told me the story of how he and Hannah had shared a box lunch at a school social when they were little. She was his first girlfriend.
One evening, my grandpa offered Hannah and my grandma a ride home. My grandma told me that he dropped her off first and she immediately went into the kitchen and told her mother that she had met the most handsome boy.
The rides continued and, eventually, my grandpa started dropping Hannah off first and then my grandma. One night, my grandpa got up the nerve to kiss my grandma.
On Oct 31, 1930, they were married and stayed together for the rest of their lives. They were married just short of 67 years when my grandma passed away.
After they had passed, I found a card from Hannah wishing my grandparents a happy anniversary. She wrote that she was so glad that she had introduced them that night at school. I found something else as well. It’s a scrap of paper torn from a notebook and written on it in my grandpa’s shaky handwriting is the phrase: “Thank you God for another year with the girl you picked for me so many years ago.”
Of all the things that I own, I think that scrap of paper is the most precious because it condenses almost 70 years of love, hardship, happiness, struggle, and everything else into one simple sentence.
My own parents celebrated 50 years of marriage just a few days ago on October 2. Maybe because they are my parents, I haven’t asked the questions that I asked my grandpa and grandma. I don’t know how they met or the rest of the story of their early relationship. But, I do know that they are another example of a relationship that has seen many things and endured through them all.
I often think of that scrap of paper I found in my grandparents’ things after they died. And I think of my own parents’ marriage. I wonder if those types of relationships still exist for people of my generation. It is so easy to go out for fun, drinks, and sex. None of that is hard to get. It is so easy to make immediate and temporary connections with people you meet. But, I wonder if my generation has lost the ability to make a connection with a person so deep and meaningful that we would be able to survive so much.
I have had great relationships and awful ones. But, even the great ones were temporary. Was that a flaw in the relationship or a flaw in my own understanding of how relationships should work?
I don’t know that I will ever figure that out but I hope I do. I do know that it makes me smile to know that my life is the product of two enduring loves – a love that inspired my grandpa to write that simple note and a love that has allowed my parents to celebrate 50 years together.