This post is coming a day late, and it’s suuuuuper sappy. I realized last night at 10pm that it was the anniversary of the day my grandparents got married. I wanted to do a sentimental post about them because I think about them every single day, in lots of different capacities. I even had a note written in my phone “grandma and grandpa post” planned for April 14. And then the day came and went and I forgot, because unless I actually set an ALARM for something, chances are it’s in and out of my head within five minutes. So let’s just pretend this post is coming on time, because what’s one day in the span of 65 years? Also, this post is more for me than anyone else – there’s no DIY or projects or helpful information – so if you don’t care about vintage pictures and my family history (I won’t hold it against you, why would you care about those things?) then just skip this and carry on with your Wednesday.
My grandparents got married on April 14, 1951, or so my mom says. The year might be off by one or two. My grandfather brought my grandma a box of chocolates on their first date, and we still have the box at my mom’s house (but now it houses mementos of their lives together).
Never in my life have I encountered (nor will I encounter) two people more meant for each other than the two of them.
They were goofy and in love and took care of each other right up until my grandpa died (please excuse the quality of these photos, some of them are pictures of pictures, since I haven’t gotten around to scanning the old family photos yet). I was young (six years old) when my grandpa passed away, so I don’t have a ton of memories of him. I’ve pieced together my personal image of him based on stories I’ve been told, tape recordings of his voice, photos, and one lucky find (which I’ll tell you about later in this post). He was a strong, tall, handsome, kind man who made an honest living as a respected state trooper. He died of non-hodgkin’s lymphoma; he fought as hard as he could for as long as he was capable and succumbed to his illness in 1994.
Everyone thought my grandma would lose her will to live – just be nothing without him. Not that she was a weak woman, but they were just the epitome of love. They balanced each other, made each other laugh, and brought happiness not only to each other but everyone around them. They were so goddamn likable, individually and as a couple.
But somehow, my grandma found strength after he died. She ate well, exercised and did yoga like a spring chicken, had friends and family and just kept going. She was never alone, which probably helped, but I think even if she was she would have been okay. She is probably the nicest woman I’ll ever meet in my life. I know all grandmas are nice, but I can’t remember a mean thing she ever said, about anyone. She was fun and loved her three grandkids probably more than anything else in the world. A perfect example of the caregiver/grandma/person she was: when we were little, she lived in Rhode Island and spent winters in Florida (she and my grandpa were snowbirds). She used to record herself every day reading stories to us. She would go check out kids’ books from the library and pick up old ones from tag sales, and she would record herself reading them aloud. She would start the tape with the day and time, what she did so far that day, and she did all the voices and exclamations, and even had guest spots from my grandpa and cousin. She would have a bunch of tapes done for us when she saw us, and we played them at night so that even when she was far away, she could still read us bedtime stories. I mean, when I think about that now, as a 26 year old adult, in the technology-ridden world we live in, I just want to cry. Such a Lorraine thing to do. It definitely made being away from her easier, and we still have all our “grandma tapes” as we lovingly referred to them. She was always, always reading to us, playing with us, coloring with us. She never said no – she let us be ourselves and be weird and eat pancakes for dinner and sleep under the kitchen table (ahem, John).
She eventually developed Parkinson’s disease and dementia, and though she’s still alive, she isn’t the same grandma she always was. She doesn’t really know what she’s saying and you can’t hold a conversation with her. I don’t know if it’s harder or easier this way. On the one hand, we still have her. We haven’t had to say final goodbyes, which I imagine will be insanely hard, but we have had to watch her descend slowly to a place that she’ll never come back from. It’s been tortuous, to be blunt, for my mom especially, but everyone else, too. It’s really, really hard to watch someone you love slip away and not be able to do anything about it. I miss her and she’s not even gone, physically. She’s gone in a different way. My mom watched my grandpa go from a physically strong, virile man to a bald, thin shell of who he was from the cancer treatments, until he finally passed. And now she’s on the opposite end of the spectrum, watching my grandma slip slowly, further away each day. It makes me want to punch someone in the face when I think about the pain she’s had to deal with, watching her parents go. I know everyone goes through this at some point, but she’s the best person literally in the entire world, and I wish I could fix it for her every day. My parents are my very best friends, and the thought of having to go through what my mom has gone through gives me serious, real anxiety. Being an adult sucks sometimes.
But, enough sadness right? Sorry to bum you out – sometimes you just gotta get real. When I’m going through an emotion, it helps me when other people relate their own experiences to mine. Makes me feel less alone and the empathy helps me cope. So if anyone reading this is going through or has gone through anything even remotely similar, well…you’re not alone. Sometimes the truth is that nothing makes it better, but not being alone helps it from being worse. Now, let’s get back to smiling.
A few years ago, during one of my basement purges, I found a beat up old film reel that had never been developed, marked “Lorraine and Don Wedding and Honeymoon.” It was a FILM reel, not just photos.
I had seen all their wedding photos, my grandma in her white suit and hat and my grandpa looking dapper and serious. I was practically tingling with excitement at the prospect of seeing my grandparents on video on their wedding day, but quickly starting fearing how I could get it developed, if it would survive getting developed, and if it didn’t, how I would be able to live knowing it was one of the only surviving videos of my grandpa. I did A LOT of research, and found that it wouldn’t be easy to find a place that still develops Kodachrome magazines. Eventually, I found a place online and talked extensively with them about the importance to me and the fact that I didn’t even know if anything worthwhile actually did exist on this reel. Truly, it was a gamble. We paid a little less than $100 and I remember sitting at the kitchen table when the DVD came back, colorized and ready to floor me. It was probably the nicest surprise that I’ve ever gotten from the universe, or whoever smiled on us that day. I’m going to link it here, but before I do: I edited the raw footage a little and set it to music, then burned it to DVD’s to send to my uncle and a few of our cousins. The first half is my grandparents on their wedding day, and the second half is my mom and uncle as kids, swimming with my grandma at the lake and the beach. That part was another happy surprise, I wasn’t expecting that footage. But the footage of them on their wedding day…definitely one of my most prized possessions. I can’t believe it existed for so long and we didn’t know, because it was buried in the basement, long forgotten.
She had a blue scarf on her hat! And he was a joker. And they had the biggest smiles and probably the loudest giggles. Two kids in love.
I had a really happy childhood. I was really, really lucky to have a lot of people who loved me. Who spoiled me and protected me and taught me things that I still use today. I have nothing but happy memories and I just wanted to take today to thank two of those people. I miss them everyday and I know Joe’s and my parents are going to be those same people for our future kids someday. I say this without a doubt, because we have really great parents, step-parents, friends, and extended family to create the same lifeline. It’s a weird, scary feeling when it feels like you have everything you’ve ever wanted with more good things to come, but I think a lot of it has to do with where we came from. So thank you, Grandma and Grandpa…for my name, for your love, and for this cryball in my throat at the thought of you. Happy memories can never be taken away.