What’s a blogger to offer beloved readers on Valentine’s Day? Today is my first crack at this issue, and it took some pondering to come up with something. Here it is, a story I’ve always enjoyed and often told over the years. All true:
My Grandfather on my mother’s side, Paul Greg, (did I ever mention my first name, Greg, came from his last name?) was a Ohio farmer his entire adult life. My Grandmother had been married to him over 50 years when she passed away. He was roughly 80 years old then, recently retired, still living in the same (isolated!) farm-house, the land now rented out. No work, no companionship at home, both for the first time in more than 50 years. Tough!
He never complained as far as I know, but I was rather young at the time. After a respectful time, he quietly started inviting local widows he knew – grew up with I’d guess – for group Friday night dinners out. Before long it was about a dozen widows and Paul, going out together in the big van he happened to own. Farmers who survive plan ahead, you know, and Paul survived farming when most failed. A maxi-van is small potatoes compared to his harvester the size of a small house and just as expensive…
Soon enough, after a year perhaps (I’m vague on the details), Paul up and married an old friend, a widow who lived a few miles down the road. They both kept their houses as far as I could tell, so I’m not sure how it was arranged, but it didn’t last long. A year or two later, perhaps, Paul passed away. For a few years or so later, when my parents, brother, and I made our annual summer Ohio visit, we’d visit this nice lady, whose name I’m ashamed to admit I don’t recall. She was very nice and hospitable, but I mostly remember how weird it was to visit a Grandmother-in-Law, AND to a house filled with pictures of generations of relatives, all total strangers to me.
After some time, she too passed away, leaving behind the story I tell and many other gems, I’d guess. It took many years for me to even begin to appreciate how unusual this story is: very little retirement, no skilled nursing to speak of, geriatric romance and remarriage. The first time someone asked at what age I planned to retire (financial planning in college), without much thought replied, “Eighty.” The woman was a bit shocked at this reply, I don’t think she had data ready for that one, and it occurred to me then that Paul was perhaps more unusual than I’d given him credit for all along. I regret not having gotten to know him better: it would have been very interesting.
I’ d love to hear any stories from others, and it seems V-Day is a perfect occasion for it….