I wondered about their marriage. How does a marriage sustain itself for so many years? Was theirs ever a passion-filled romance? How did they resolve their disagreements? How does a marriage change over the years? What are the biggest changes between being married 10 years and 50 years? How do you handle it when the passion dies (if it did)?
Grandma was a very private person, and any time I brought this up with her, she would wave the questions away. In fact, knowing how she was, I never really asked, just grazed the periphery in conversations.
Anyway, the couple of days I was at her house after she past away I spent going through her things. I dug around and came up with anything I could find that had meaning. It was wonderful to find mementos from Grandma and Grandpa’s younger days.
I couldn’t believe it when I came across a scrap book Grandma put together the year she and Grandpa got married. None of her kids (they were all there) had seen it before. My mother and aunt sat down and we reverently went through it.
One thing I found out right away: my lack of follow-through on projects like scrap-booking came directly from Grandma (then to my mom and then to me). She had only filled about a fifth of the book. Who would think this type of thing was genetic? The proof was right there!
But how thankful we were for what was there: a treasure. For instance, she had an “unexcused absence” slip from her Algebra II class. First I was amazed that this was at one time handed out in college, and then I laughed. Grandma was proud of that slip; so much so that she chose to put it in her scrap book. What a woman! I am proud to have had a Grandma that not only went to college when most women weren’t but also was doing her part in bucking the system a little bit. I am smiling as I write this.
I also found an advice column about marriage by Dorothy Dix (real name Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer; she invented this genre of column 100 years ago!). This of course greatly interested me. I figured that if Grandma bothered to snip it out of the paper and glue it in her book, the advice must have resounded with her. (I think that at the time she read the column, she was engaged.)
The main point of Dix’s column is this: a marriage is not built on what you bring to it (i.e. romance/passion) as much as it is built on your experiences together as husband and wife. The journey of marriage itself (the joys, heartaches, losses, etc…) is what binds you together over the long haul. I didn’t bring the scrap book home so others traveling to Florida to spend some time at Grandma’s house could look at it. However, when I can, I will reprint some of the nuggets of wisdom that was part of this article.
At any rate, this gave me a little glimpse into how Grandma looked at marriage, and it didn’t surprise me. The advice was very practical, intelligent and insightful. Just like her, I thought. My Grandpa was the romantic of the relationship, not Grandma, I thought.
But wait! I did some more digging (my uncle commented that I sure was nosy), and came up with Grandma’s year book from college. Her picture was in it along with a poem she had written (not hand-written in but actually printed under her name).
Here it is (My Grandpa’s name is Wally):
One heart’s enough for me, one Wally to love, adore;
One heart’s enough for me, oh, who could ask for more?
I was blown away. I loved reading this. I am all for the “sensible” side of marriage, but if you have read some of my blogs, you know that I am a fool for passion. I strongly believe that a joyful marriage has to have both the passion and the practical. And here I had some proof that Grandma did see the passion side of things, too. She adored Grandpa! Pretty strongly romantic language for a year book from 1930.
This also reminded me that no one on the outside knows what goes on inside of a marriage. We might think we know and silently pass judgment, but we just don’t. Period. Marriage is the ultimate secret, one that cannot be fully shared except by the two living it. What a wonder to cherish: being inside a secret only shared by two (there’s a song there, right?).
I don’t want or need to know the secret of my Grandparent’s marriage. However I do wish I could have known a little more about this poetic side of Grandma. I wish that I could have heard the story of the passion in their courtship.
But you know what? This is enough for me. Her two-stanza poem spoke volumes to me, and being the romantic that I am, I will run with that.