Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Til Death Do Us Part

About a year ago I leaned up against the counter in my estranged step-grandmother's kitchen as she mixed us up a couple of Bloody Marys. I hadn't seen her since my grandfather's funeral, and before that it had been several years as well. They'd been taken off the holiday visit rotation when I was still too young to understand that "grandparent" meant that my mom had a mom and dad, too, not to mention any of the politics that caused that relationship to disintegrate. Over the years I've pieced together a story that makes sense for me, even if my mom remains quiet about it.

Sweedy (real name Edy, aptly nicknamed) and I chatted like old girlfriends, reaching far into our news archives to bring each other up to speed on anything and everything. She'd just turned 81 years young and talked about aerobics, her grandparents, the most recent opera she'd seen, and on and on. I talked about my job, my family, lamented lost time, lost loved ones, never having the opportunity to know my grandfather. I listened intently to her description of him - loving and honest, but not bitter, she talked about him as a person with imperfections and weaknesses that made me appreciate the true love I know they must have shared. She listened to me, asked questions, responded - it seems simple enough, but you'd only have to witness a holiday at my paternal grandparents' house to understand why it meant so much to have an actual conversation with someone in a grandparent role. At some point a brief lull in the conversation led her to complete nonsequitur and she announced, "Maria, I have a boyfriend."

His name is Edward. She's known him for 40 years. She and my grandfather went to church with him and his wife, who had also died within the last couple of years. They hadn't meant for it to happen, but it had, and she giggled like a schoolgirl. Edward picked us up for church on Sunday, stayed with us as we interred my grandfather's ashes in the church garden, and took us out to lunch afterwards. Later that afternoon, Sweedy carved some honeydew (his favorite melon) for us to take over to share with him. They shared smiles, sideways glances, kisses on the cheek - like teenagers, only slightly more tasteful. At the time, Sweedy confided to me that she didn't expect they'd ever marry - there didn't seem to be much point in that. This week, though, she called to let me know that they've bought a house and will marry this afternoon with just close family in attendance. I've never been happier for two people in my life - committing to beginning a life together at 82.

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