In which they just kept going
by Teresa Finney
My Grandma texted me this morning to say that she misses me and that she wishes I could be there for her and my Grandfather’s 50th wedding anniversary. Which is on May 12th.
I called her today to get the scoop. 50 years? What the fuck? That is such a long time to dedicate yourself to one person. I wanted the secrets, if any.
“Grandma, hey. I’m calling you from this Dunkin Donuts,” I said.
She laughs at me. “Your Mother said you liked that place.”
“So, 50 years. Holy shit. I can’t imagine that. I’m trying and I can’t.”
She laughs again and says something about people nowadays giving up too easily.
I ask about the night she met my Grandfather.
“I went out dancing with friends at this place called the Rainbow. I saw your Grandpa and oh my god, I thought he we so handsome. He asked me to dance and we danced all night. I thought we were going to burn a hole in that dance floor. That was a good night.”
Women who were single in the 60s did not give out their phone number to prospective dates, she told me. “We were not allowed to. If my Grandpa found out I gave my number to a man, he would have slapped me.” I don’t have to assume she means this literally. She means this literally.
It wasn’t until the following week when, as fate would have it, my Grandparents ran into each other again at The Rainbow.
I asked how long they dated before they got engaged.
“Nine months,” she deadpans.
I knew this already. This was a secret they tried desperately to hide from the family for many years but we can all do math. I acted surprised.
“So…it was a shotgun wedding?” I asked trying to stifle my laugher.
“If you hadn’t gotten pregnant do you think you would have married him?”
“No, I don’t think so,” She didn’t hesitate. I paused momentarily to weigh the gravity of that. How one thing – in this case, getting pregnant – can set off a chain reaction and literally create lives and entire existences.
“I did love him but I also thought he was just so-so,” she explained. I understood the sentiment completely.
As far as the proposal itself, it was devoid of any romance, Grandma says.
“One day he just said ‘We’re gonna get married’ and the next thing I know we are shopping for wedding rings and a dress. It all happened fast.”
I wanted to know how they stayed committed to one another for so long. I know the real secrets of their marriage that have nothing to do with sex before their marriage. I know that he hit her. A lot. I know that he was not a nice man, and I knew that the thought of leaving him has crossed her mind just as often.
“The vows mean everything, Teresa. I said in front of God that I would stay with your Grandfather for better or for worse, so I did.”
She said it matter of factly as if I was supposed to relate. I couldn’t relate; I can’t relate. She was talking to a woman (me) who received a ring from a man she was dating for much longer than nine months, and ran away to Los Angeles because committing to someone at 21 was too scary. Commitment and I aren’t big fans of each other.
I don’t relate to my Grandparent’s love story but that doesn’t mean I can’t respect it. “The vows mean everything, Teresa.” I keep hearing her say that in my head. As a writer I understand the importance of words. I can respect the words.
And it’s nothing new. Anyone who has been married for a long period of time will tell you the same sort of story. They never quit. They kept going, even when things were terrible, they kept going. But was the decision to stay together for so long based on love, or merely the vows? I can’t ponder it for too long.
“You know, if you talked to your Grandfather about this he would probably cry. He’s always been so emotional. More emotional than me. I’m just not like that,” she says. “He calls me a bitch,” she laughs, “And I call him a crybaby.”
About an hour after our chat, I’ll text my Grandma and ask her if she thinks I’ll ever get married.
“Yes, and you will have kids. Believe me,” she writes.
“If you say so,” I reply.