"We met at my church, you know." Out of the blue, my grandmother (the original Tall Girl who still has show-stopping legs) will start her tale of her first encounter with my grandfather:
This is the story we often hear of my grandparents' first moments together, the time he swept her off her feet. They were married not long after that scooped-me-up scene, and 64 years later, they still look at each other with goo-goo eyes. Photos from their wedding day can be found tucked around their home -- him tall and blond, blue-eyed and stern, her tall and dark and slender with movie-star pin curls. They were so lovely, so young, so full of sparkle.
"My mother always invited the young servicemen at church home for dinner, because my brother was in the service, you see. As we walked to the church door, I noticed that it was raining. I was upset about this, you see, because I had on my brand new shoes (in those days you had to have a coupon for new shoes, so these were very special to me) and I knew I had to cross the street to get to the car. I stood and watched the water rush down the street, and I tried to decide if I should just take my shoes off and run in my hose. That's when he stepped up beside me. He asked why I fretted, and I giggled about my shoes -- I was embarrassed and flustered because he was just so handsome in his uniform, you know -- and he didn't even hesitate. He just scooped me up and carried me down the steps and across the street to the car. He carried me! Scooped me right up! My shoes didn't get wet. And I knew right then, he was my man."
They're living apart for the first time now -- Grampa in nursing care, Gramma alone in their home -- as they await their final move to a care facility where they can at least be in the same building. My sister and I didn't know what to expect from this trip, so we were prepared for the worst. We had a good visit with both grandparents, even though Grampa didn't remember our names and asked every three minutes where he was. He remembered and responded to Gramma, though, and that's all that really matters now.
It was difficult to say goodbye, not knowing when or if we'd see them again. But surprisingly, we both came away with strength and heart, knowing that our grandparents have lived a long, full life together. They raised four children, saw them each married with families and lives of their own. They traveled the world, did everything they wanted to do. They have seen their 7 grandchildren grow to adults and start down life's path. They have held their great-grandchild and played with him on the beach. Above all, they have been healthy and vivacious -- and they have been side by side.
These are the people my entire family has looked to for direction. They are entwined in all my best (and worst) family memories. They have shown us how to love and how to be loved. They have shown us the importance of family. And even now, they show us the meaning of those wedding vows, that even when you can't remember anything else, you will remember the face of the one who has loved you longest. Your eyes will light up when you see her, and you will be calm when she is near.