My grandparents had a once in a lifetime love. On this Valentine’s Day, I want to share their story. It is not like an epic romance that you read about in books or see in the movies. It is simple and real and unaffected.
It was July 3, 1946. She was 16; he was 20. She went to the pool with her friends to tan, a futile attempt to look better in their not-so-loved white dresses they would be required to wear at graduation exercises. In reality, my grandmother admits they probably resembled lobsters due to the baby oil they slathered all over their skin.
Just discharged from the US Army Air Corps, he was the manager and head lifeguard at the neighborhood pool for the summer. Her friend really wanted to meet the handsome guard on duty, so she talked my grandmother into walking over to ask him for a Band Aid to cover the blister on her heel. At the time, my grandmother had another romantic interest, but for the sake of her friend, she went along with the idea. Throughout the day, my grandfather paid attention to her, however. He threw his watch to her as he dove into the pool to save someone. He made little comments as he walked by.
The day ended and the girls all piled into their car to start dropping people off. As they drove back by the pool, my grandmother asked to be dropped off, claiming she dropped her sunglasses. As she looked for her “sunglasses,” my grandfather came over and offered her a ride home. Luckily she did find some lost sunglasses, which she had actually never had in the first place. She went home and told her family “she met the cutest boy.” She wrote in a journal “he seems to be something out of this world. He’s tall, dark and plenty good looking.”
They did not see each other again that summer as my grandmother left to go visit her aunt in the Adirondacks the day after they met. That fall, as she stood on the street corner in her lovely school uniform waiting for the streetcar, my grandfather drove by on his way to university. He stopped and offered her a ride to school. With that, their relationship began. Her neighbor said she could set a clock based on the time that my grandfather showed up to see my grandmother.
My grandmother graduated high school and attended business college to learn typing, shorthand and bookkeeping. She continued to see my grandfather regularly. They talked of marrying in the spring. Then as winter approached, they decided why wait?
They married in a local country church on November 17, 1948, just two months after my grandmother turned 19. She wore a simple suit. Her family held a small luncheon reception at their family home.
They lived a spectacular life together. They had two sons, moved to New York for several years, started a company together, and even lived on a boat in the Caribbean after retirement. She once told me that, like many married couples, they argued. But they never went to bed during an argument. They talked it out and always went to sleep loving each other.
Just months before their fiftieth wedding anniversary, my grandfather passed away after a hard battle with cancer. She knew the end was close. That night she crawled into bed with him and assured him he was not alone. He was surrounded by his wife, their two sons, their daughters-in-law and two young granddaughters. His last words “That’s wonderful, that’s wonderful.”
Now, close to twenty years after he died, she still wears her wedding ring and he still holds the main role in her dreams. Their love story isn’t full of sweeping romance. Yet it has lasted decades, for their love was, and still is, simple and true.