This collection of stories comes from three generations of women. The stories show the strength of a marriage and family, and how often these things are built on the simple moments that make life memorable.
For Grandma and Papa: you showed me what love and happiness looks like.
Grandma: I arrived with my family in Brady, Nebraska when I was a junior in high school. Naturally the first thing I did was look around to see what the boy situation was. When I first laid eyes on him I noticed his quirky smile and blue eyes. But, unfortunately at that time, those blue eyes were looking to someone else.
It wasn’t until after he graduated high school and went off to college that we went out ice-skating together. He was a perfect gentleman while we skated out at the river.
I guess we just clicked because we went together thereafter.
Daughter: When we moved from Nebraska to Illinois things were a little tight in terms of money, we were building a brand new house at the time. Dad started working full time at the Chrysler plant, and then in addition he took a part time job at a hardware store. I remember going in the evenings to visit him at the store.
He worked all day and night so that mom could stay home with my sister and I.
Grandma: We were driving in our station wagon back home from Nebraska. It was snowing so badly that I was a nervous wreck in the front seat while the girls sat in the back. Everyone else was pulling off the road to wait out the snow—but not us. We were the only ones left on the road besides the truckers. I begged and begged him to pull off. Then finally he said, “You go to the back, lie down and hide your eyes.”
So I got kicked to the back.
Daughter: Dad often couldn’t just give someone a gift—there had to be some kind of big production that came with it. One Christmas we picked out a new sewing machine for mom, but dad didn’t just wrap it. Instead he made a set up like a game show in the basement with curtains across the wall. There were three options to choose from: curtains one, two and three.
So we told her that her gift was to pick a curtain, but we really picked for her. Behind curtain number one was a fake tropical plant that symbolized a fancy vacation, and behind curtain number three was the fireplace, which was the gift of “hot air” ha-ha. When we revealed what was behind curtain number two we all exclaimed:
“You won a new sewing machine, congratulations!”
Grandma: I was at work when I got a call from him that he needed me to get off early and come home. I said, “Why?” and he said, “Well I had a bit of an accident with the van.” Here I thought that he just wrecked it, but he actually got run over by it.
He had the van up on blocks in the garage to do something underneath it when the emergency brake gave out causing the van to run him over, roll across the yard, barely miss the mailbox and stop in the neighbor’s driveway.
As I drove him to the doctor he chastised me for driving too fast.
Daughter: My sister and I always thought that dad needed help picking out gifts for mom—that he couldn’t do it without our help. After we had both moved out of the house we wondered, what on earth is he going to do? For their 30th wedding anniversary we, being my sister and I, thought mom needed something special. But all dad had found was this precious moments statue (mom collected them at the time).
When we went out to dinner we kept telling him that he needed to step it up, get her something more. But, nope he said he had it taken care of. As she opened her present from him he made her take it all the way out of the box. Wrapped around the statue was a ruby necklace and earrings.
We said wow dad, you can step up and be romantic.
Granddaughter: For my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary my Papa came up with the idea to surprise my grandma and have my whole family fly down to see them in Texas where they wintered. They usually left for Texas after Christmas and would stay until May when it was finally warm in Illinois. We had never before come down to visit them while they were gone so this was a big deal—and quite the surprise.
When we arrived in Texas we drove to the campsite where my grandparent’s kept their camper. We quietly parked and got out of our vehicles, making sure not to talk to one another so she couldn’t recognize our voices. As we all piled into the camper you could see the look of utter surprise on my grandma’s face as she said, “What are you all doing here?”
I remember betting with my mom on who would cry, my grandma or Papa. I thought my grandma would but she disagreed.
After we all piled into the camper I looked back at my Papa to see him wiping his tears away.
Granddaughter: As I walked into the hospital I caught a glimpse of my mother and grandmother talking to a doctor, on the ride over I expected it was nothing serious but as I watched them and turned the corner my stomach sunk into the linoleum floor. The last few words that slipped out of the doctor’s mouth hit my grandma like a ton of bricks. She collapsed into my mother, wailing out sobs of disbelief. I saw this all from a distance, still pushing my legs forward to reach them, through the glass of a cubicle. Walking around the corner I saw my mother and grandmother’s reactions to the words that the doctor had said and without asking I knew what had happened.
A couple hours later we sat in a waiting room. My Papa was only alive with the help of machines keeping his heart beating. But otherwise he was gone. I sat around some people I knew, some people I didn’t, and my parents made phone calls to deliver the news to the rest of our family. We waited until they were all present to pull the plug and say goodbye.
I turned and saw my grandma being held by a friend as she wept. Nothing is worse than seeing your grandma cry. To see the most caring and nurturing person you know in agonizing pain is something you can never un-see. Her friend soothed her as my grandma uttered the words that still ring with perfect clarity in my head six years later:
“I don’t know how to live without him.”
Grandma: We always played games—card games, board games, dominoes. We started you grandkids out with dominoes because they had colors you could recognize without counting. As long as you were all old enough to sit up at the table we played some game or another.
And surprisingly you all didn’t even fight over the games much, just laughed, joked and spent quality time with one another that has created so many memories.
That’s something I still look forward to when everybody comes.
Granddaughter: I have always admired my grandparents’ marriage. I hope that one day I can have something as special as they did and make the kind of memories that my mom and grandma shared with me. When I interviewed my mom she talked a lot about how my grandparents never did anything without one another—they were involved in every aspect of each other’s lives. My mom also told me how she hopes and dreams that my brother and I will find the same kind of love.
Unwavering, unconditional and unending.