The Greatest Love Story of My Life : Casablanca, The Notebook, Beauty and the Beast all in one

My favourite love story doesn’t have a prince. It doesn’t feature Ryan Gosling. And shockingly, even though I love my husband to the moon and back, my favorite love story isn’t even my own- it’s my grandparents’.

What has always made my grandparents’ relationship remarkable to me was the fact that they liked each other. I grew up in a house that felt like the United States during the 1960’s Cold War, where at any moment one side might detonate the nuclear bomb of divorce and annihilate my world. Thus, the feeling of genuine friendship that my grandparents shared, formed the basis of what a loving marriage looked like for both me and my sister.

You couldn’t separate one person from another. Gran came with Granddad; their names were said together, always, because that was their life. My grandparents tackled the world head-on, side by side. They danced west coast style together, they sailed together, they biked together, they geocached together. It didn’t matter that every single one of those interests belonged almost exclusively to my Granddad, they did them together. My Gran spent her life sewing matching costumes for their nights out dancing, scrubbing the boat to ready it for a trip, preparing elaborate lunches to feed my particular Granddad during their outdoor adventures. Gran supported Granddad while he captained the ship of their life.

The way that my grandfather supported my Gran was more subtle. As a child, my sister and I would watch for his love- in the way that Granddad would come up behind Gran and hug her. Or the way that, despite living on modest means and carefully budgeting every month, Granddad insisted that they could afford a sewing machine the price of a used car so Gran could add detailed embroidery to her sewing projects. When I went to university, Granddad truly proved his love for Gran by buying her two dogs then walking the canines twice a day, every day, after that.

In the same way that my sister and I liked to bask in their love for us, we would delight in our grandparents’ love for each other. As teenagers, whenever our family traveled together, despite having our own space, somehow Diana and I would end up in Gran and Granddad’s room. They wouldn’t be paying any attention to us necessarily. My sister and I just enjoyed watching our grandparents be together.

Even the off moments of my grandparents’ marriage were endearing. The same night that Granddad unwittingly revealed Diana’s actual age (as opposed to the one on her fake ID that she carried in her pocket) to the nightclub bouncers, my sister and I sat in my grandparents’ room beforehand. Both Diana and I were ready for a night of dancing, but Gran and Granddad still had to put on their matching country Western outfits. Granddad carefully set a map on their bed of how to get to the club and said to Gran that the directions were there and could she please remember to bring them.

Fast forward to the four of us walking to the dance club, Granddad is about two minutes away from loudly declaring Diana’s underage status to the bouncers. Granddad turned to Gran and asked whether she had brought the map. “What map?” my Gran asked. “The one I said that I laid on the bed for you to bring in your purse, and you said ‘Mmmm hmmm’” replied Granddad.

“Dear, you talk an awful lot, sometimes I don’t always listen” my Gran confessed. All of us laughed and I marveled to myself how wonderful it must be to live with someone for so long that on occasion you just allow the cadence of their voice to fall around you without listening, not in an inconsiderate way but more in the manner of letting your chatty spouse talk. Then my Granddad shouted Diana’s age to the bouncers, setting off a course of events that would end with my other, paternal grandmother being dropped off by the police at midnight and the spell of goodwill was broken. Evidently we hadn’t needed the map, only a set of Ontario legislation for Granddad.

It wasn’t just my grandparents’ friendship that makes their love special to me- it was the endurance of that love. My grandparents met, married and had children in their teens. They traveled across the globe as a family when my grandfather was in the military. They lived in more places than I have, which is astounding because I’ve moved a lot in the past couple of years. And through all of that, they were together, creating stories, supporting one another.

My whole life, I’ve been fortunate to watch my grandparents live their marriage vows; for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. Often I’ve marveled at the achievement of loving the same person for your whole life, choosing to endure every peak, plateau and decline together and the determination it must have taken for both of them to achieve this.

The last time I visited my grandparents, my grandfather turned to me and said “Gran and I are friends.” I smiled at him and replied “I know” because I do, their love for one another has been a fact of my life, every day since I was born. My only hope is that I can create the same caliber of love story for my own family.

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That Time My Gran Terrified An Olympian

My Gran can be pretty scary when she wants to be. Of course she’ll hide behind that fascade of pie making, dress-fitting, grandmotherly goodness but underneath, my Gran is as tough as nails. And when she wants to, she’ll remind you of this fact.

Once at Thanksgiving, she commented that I was looking slim. I brushed the compliment off saying “Oh it’s just because I haven’t put on my winter fat yet”. My Gran looked at me sternly and said with a thin lipped voice “You’re not going to do that again this year”. That winter, and only that winter, I didn’t put on weight; each time I met a donut I liked, I thought of my Gran’s expression and left it on the plate.

I wasn’t the first person she scared, nor I imagine, will I be the last but once upon a time, when the strap was still an approved method for teaching, my grandmother terrified the bejesus out of an Olympian.

It was a Canadian winter in the 1960s, which is to say that the drifts were up to your nipples and it was still snowing. This was a particularly bad night for weather, but in spite of that, the twin boys’ parents had gone out, leaving them at home with a babysitter- my mother.

My mother can be as flustered as my Gran is fearsome. And on this howling blizzard of a night, these two boys were taking advantage of that, running wild around the house, whooping, hollering, causing all sorts of mischief. Finally, my mother couldn’t take it anymore, she called my Gran, “Mom please come help, they won’t listen.”

As frightening as my Gran can be, she is always there for her family, so on went her sweater, her coat, her hat, her mitts, her boots, all this just to cross the street. Once she arrived, my Gran was at a loss, along with being an accomplished seamstress and cook, my grandmother keeps her home spotless. Not wanting to drag snow into her neighbour’s house and create puddles, my Gran opened the front door which my mother had left unlocked and jumped out of her boots into the house.

Seeing this tall, angry woman who had just walked across the street barefoot when it was thirty degrees below zero Celsius, the  boys stopped in their tracks. “Both of you, go to bed” my Gran said sharply. Supposedly they never misbehaved again out of fear that the woman who doesn’t need shoes in the snow would return.

My grandmother never laid claim to inspiring the one twin to shape up his act and begin rowing his way to the Olympics but she’s a humble woman. I’m just glad she never told me to do such a thing, otherwise I might have found myself backspringing my way across sweaty gym mats rather than in front of a computer telling my stories.