My grandma, Eleanor, passed a little over a month ago. I wrote about her the day it happened, blessed with the image of her passing surrounded by family and love. Grammy has been on my mind daily since. Our family gathered at her home the night before her memorial service and I spent a great deal of time going through and collecting photographs. Call me a hoarder or even obsessive, I don’t mind, I love pictures. I waste hours upon hours looking through photographs, taking pictures and editing pictures. For as much as I stress to others the importance of being in the present, I spend too much time stuck in frozen images from the past.
I never met my grandfather, my sister and I even commented last month about how awkward we sometimes felt not knowing how to refer to him. I don’t really know how he was addressed by his grandchildren, so I sometimes would say “my dad’s dad,” or “your husband” if I was asking Grammy about him. She did talk about him a lot too, often telling us how he would have loved us and how much he adored children. He died of a heart attack while my dad was in college. Grammy was never interested in dating or remarrying, she already had the love of her life, she would tell us.
And even though I never saw them in real life together I know it was true. Grammy teared up talking about him sometimes, as if the decades since he had been gone hadn’t eased the grief she felt. I knew she still missed him desperately. During the memorial service family members talked about the love they shared, how they were always affectionate and caring towards one another. I still can’t wrap my mind around how she loved to iron his clothes just because it was for him, I do try to mimic the same enthusiasm for mundane tasks – trying to appreciate the ordinary.
Even without the stories, I know my grandparents were in love through the photographs I found in Grammy’s albums. Many of the pictures have one or both of them looking at each other instead of the camera, in many pictures his arms are around her squeezing tightly. Happiness and mutual respect exude from the black and white images. Their smiles are pure joy.
My grandparents appeared to have the marriage everyone dreams of, they managed to stay dedicated to each other and their relationship. Was it just easier back then?
On Oprah’s interview with Jamie Foxx they got to talking about marriage. Without directly quoting, she said something about having a difficult time naming 5 couples she knows who have a “happy marriage.” Of course this statement made me ponder the same idea, how many couples do I know who appear to be happily married? Why is it so hard to stay happy in a relationship?
It’s as if married couples buy into Club Misery after saying “I do” and forget it takes work to create mutual satisfaction in a relationship. Friends can get carried away griping about their spouses, unintentionally creating a breeding ground for negativity in a relationship. On top of the social acceptance for the misery of marriage we are also tainted my social media distractions. There is less necessity to correspond with the love of your life when you can connect with whoever pops up on the Twitter or Facebook feed about the appealing subject of the hour. By the end of the day when significant others finally reach each other they have exhausted the day’s news with virtual friends.
I’m frightened for the next generation of individuals hopeful of finding love and happy marriage with a significant pattern being established of meeting and dating online. Manti Te’o, for example, maybe the only national story of this kind though he is certainly not the first to fall in love with a fake profile. The MTV show Catfish highlights even more of these cases, I can’t stop watching because I am shocked at how much people will trust in the hope for love.
So part of me wonders if my grandparents had it easier with their relationship in the era they fell in love? Or did their passion for family and love stems from some early struggles long before the internet. They did get married following The Great Depression, a time when Grammy’s family lost their business and had to close their stores. My grandfather was also drafted to World War II after Grammy gave birth to their first child. I wonder if these major life events helped to shape their relationship and reinforce what really matters the most.
Without being devastated by financial loss, being separated by war, natural disasters, illness or any other tragic events, what would it take for couples to focus on what really matters? Couples need to strive to love more, to be more devoted and to demonstrate more respect for marriage, it doesn’t have to be miserable unless you allow it.