August 14 is my grandparents’ wedding anniversary. It would have been 75 years today. My grandfather died 12 years ago, which would put a crimp in it for most of us, but my grandmother’s practical point of view is, “I’m still married, it’s just that my husband is dead.”
That attitude is never more apparent than meal time at “the old folks home” (her words, not mine) where she now resides. All in all it was a good move from her Marina del Rey condo, where in the last years she spent more and more time alone. The solitude was offset by the liveliness of the place, inhabited by people of all ages. She was especially fond of the family across the hall, with their two little babies. It was little things, like the sound of a baby crying, or the sight of sandy flip flops lined up in a row outside their front door, that connected her to the bustle of lives being lived. But the Homeowners Association police put an end to that, with its clever “No Shoes In The Hallway” policy. Without the sandy flip flops, what’s the point of staying? She took the plunge to Senior Living, where two friends had already paved her way, and now she’s alone only when she wants to be. There are movies and lectures, Rummy Cube and field trips, new friends (“the cool kids”) with whom she dines two or three times a day. The only downside she can find is that everyone is so old.
On occasion she finds herself seated alone at a table. Pity the poor fella who wobbles toward her, aiming to sit and eat.
She will fix her eyes on him, raise her head high, and in a voice loud enough to clear any hurdles of hearing impairment, proclaim “Don’t even think about sitting here.” (At least she says what she thinks. Honestly, haven’t you ever wished you could do that, and not have to wait until you’re a great-grandmother?)
A part of me cringed when she confessed this to me one day at lunch in the dining room, after she gave a guy the look that says, “Keep on walking, Mister.” And a part of me understood. She’s married, still, to the man who swept her off her feet, the sharpest, smoothest, strongest, most swashbuckling fella who ever dared approach. Who can blame her?
Tomorrow is our 14th wedding anniversary. When we chose the date, I liked the proximity to my grandparents’ anniversary (then, a mere 61 years). As luck would have it this year, my husband will be across the country for work, and I’ll be in the trenches of helping with a new batch of homework. Across those small hurdles we’ll raise a toast to each other, to family, and to the alchemy of love, timing, magic, faith and sheer dumb luck that make a marriage.