So last night was the ultimate coup, the long-planned for 60th Anniversary party for my grandparents. Close to 50 people attended, and boy was it ever a shindig. They had no clue that this dinner was going to be anything other than a small family affair. People from other states were there, a 94-year old, (who, by the way, is mentally sharper than me) and a friend they had not seen in over 19 years all travled to congratulate them and join in the celebration. The look on their faces when they came in as everyone stood and cheered and clapped was something I will never forget, and as I was manning the videocamera, I started to cry, as did many other people. Hopefully, we can edit out my sniffles.
They both were from immigrant families, my grandfather's Italian and my grandmother's Czech. Both of these families lived in a poor coal-mining town in Western Pennsylvania. Coal mining was one of the few jobs these recent arrivals could get, since no one else wanted to hazard the dangers of the mines. It was a company-owned town, where the houses were rented from the company, and the general store was also owned by the company.
They went to school together in a small one-room schoolhouse, my grandfather being four years older than my grandmother. They have pretty much known each other for their entire lives. I personally think that makes their years together even more remarkable. Children of the Depression, they lived in poverty, but neither of them felt that they grew up deprived. Their families were warm, large, and loving, which goes a long way in making up for lack of material possessions.
They didn't necessarily part ways, but the age difference came into play for a while, and it wasn't until they were older that they began to notice each other in a bit of a different way. Family lore says the turning point was when my grandmother, and expert baker, baked him his own peach pie as a way of re-introducing themselves, and that was the proverbial clincher. Not to mention that she was pretty and vivacious as well. I think it is hilarious that my grandfather was hooked by the old "the way to the heart is through the stomach" adage, and we all get a good laugh out of it.
My grandfather had begun working in the mines himself, but when the Japanese attacked in '41, he enlisted as a way to get out. He was dispatched quickly to the front lines in the Pacific Theater, and sent my grandmother pictures and letters. He was a radio operator in the Army on Guadalcanal. My grandmother traveled to Macon, Georgia in '42 when he was granted a furlough, and he proposed to her, although their marriage would be not be for another three years after he was done with his stint.
They were married in a civil ceremony on October 18, 1945. Their lives were not necessarily easy, and they moved across the county in various stages, eventually winding up in California, where they have lived since the 50's. My grandfather eventually working at the post office as the stamp man behind the counter that people would purposely wait for his window to become open so that he could help them, and my grandmother's dulcet tones being heard throughout Southern Califronia as an operator for Ma Bell.
They have two sons, four grandchildren, and so far, one great-grandchild. I cannot even express how blessed we are to have them still in our lives, still relatively healthy and living completely self-sufficiently. Many children do not even have grandparents, much less great-grandparents, and I am so lucky that Mr. Personality has been able to spend so much time with Nana and Pap-Pap.
They said something last night that struck both Hubba-hubba and myself. They were referring to their long period of time together, and they said that not all of those years were perfect, by any means. But they grew together and perservered through the rough times, and they came out their experiences together so bonded and committed that they could not imagine their lives without another.
A lesson for all, I think, on the wonders of love and friendship. The world would be a better place if everyone had a partner who loved them as much as my grandparents love each other, and that is a fact.