They met in Brainerd, Minnesota sometime before 1926. He was thirty and she was twenty and it was true love. They were married in 1926 and stayed married for 61 years until he died. She lived without him for another twenty-one years until she died at age 102.
By the time I was a child, they lived in a single-wide “manufactured home” with some added-on rooms, porches and a deck. I was terribly impressed–to me, it was grandma and grandpa’s peaceful house with beautiful plants and Lladró pieces sitting on top of their upright piano. They no longer lived in Minnesota–they’d spent most of their adult lives in North Dakota and then migrated to the Pacific Northwest in the 1960s. That’s where they lived in that little green house with the gooseberry bush in the back yard and calla lilies along the garage wall. Huge Rhododendron bushes grew on each side of the back porch. Grandma also grew roses and hung laundry to dry in the back yard.
Grandpa was a preacher. He had semi-retired by the time I came along but was still on staff at a church as the “visitation” pastor. He and my grandma visited the elderly in nursing homes, occasionally bringing us along to stand up front and sing church songs to the old people.
Both of my grandparents have been gone now–grandpa died the week after I was married. Grandma died in 2008.
And yet, I feel an odd closeness to them because we have come full circle. We are now living about an hour from Brainerd. The people here feel like my people. The gray-haired ladies I cut fabric for at work could be my relatives and I am always mindful of that when I exercise patience and help them pick out colors or yarn or ask them what they are making.
My own parents met at college in the Twin Cities but fled from these northern states soon after they married, eager to trade in a snow shovel for an umbrella, but it’s weird, isn’t it, that I have somehow landed back in the place where my story started?
The longer you live, the more you get to see how things turn out, which is one of my favorite things about getting older. (This is the last month in which I will be closer to fifty than to sixty. Now THAT is weird.) What a story it’s been, this life.