A Timeless Love Story
True Love Is Amazing!
The story of how my grandparents met, fell in love, and got married, is the most romantic story I have ever heard, even if it is a little unconventional. My family is unconventional, so it works. It's not really one of those stories that have been told time and time again in old movies, from the era in which my grandparents lived. I don't know the exact dates or the exact time line of the story, but that is the least important part of the story. The love they found and the life they built is what this is all about. I hope I am honoring them by telling this story.
And Sometimes It Isn't Easy
When they met, both my grandparents were already married to other people, and my grandmother already had four children of her own. My grandfather had no children at the time. My grandmother was working as a waitress in a little Greek diner in the city, and my grandfather was in the city temporarily, working for the railroad. They met purely by accident. He happened to walk into the very diner she worked in one night, in hopes of finding a good meal. What he found was something so much better than some delicious Greek food. He found her...I can see it in my head, that classic movie scene, where the male lead walks in and sees the woman of his dreams, and time kind of freezes.
It was innocent enough at first. He started coming into the diner just about every night, and they would talk a little, got to know each other. He even offered to walk her home on several occasions, as the city, even in those days, was no place for a young woman to be walking home alone at night. My grandfather always was a true gentleman. He had a heart of gold. I can just see him, extending his arm to her, and they glide along into the night.
Despite their current situations, despite the four children, and despite the stigma divorce had in those days, my grandfather fell in love with my grandmother. You can't help who you fall in love with, and my grandmother is a wonderful woman now, and she was stunning when she was young. Us redheads usually are.
My grandfather's situation was quite a bit different than my grandmother's. He had no children, and his wife, for lack of a better word, had run off to parts unknown quite a while before he even met my grandmother. Nobody really knows why she left or where she went, though. In his mind and in his heart, he was no longer married. Only in the eyes of the law and the eyes of God, was he still tied to another. It was one thing for him to make the decision to seek a divorce...it was an entirely different set of problems to tell his parents. They were very devout Irish Catholics, and to them, divorce was a big time no-no. It didn't matter that his wife had run off, it was still wrong. The church was no help on the matter either. My grandfather said he didn't care. He threw aside his parent's opinion, threw aside his faith and followed his heart. Despite all that stood in the way of the handsome leading man, he was determined.
That left one problem...my grandmother was still married. She was tied in an unhappy marriage to someone she no longer loved. The man she was married to was not nice to her, and she told me that he drank a lot. She moved in with her parents, along with the four kids. Back then, that just didn't happen. Not as often as it does these days. She got a divorce of her own as quickly as she could. My great-grandfather was supportive of my grandma's decision. I guess he didn't like her first husband all that much. She told me that my great-grandfather had a part in influencing her husband to agree to the divorce.
Everything happened pretty fast, considering the era we are talking about. People didn't get divorced, women didn't complain about their husbands. People sometimes ran off and got married, but those were usually young, love-struck kids, not reasonable adults. Yet, that is exactly what my grandparents did. Grandpa took a few days off work, they went down to the justice of the peace, and with no fuss, no extravagance, they got married. A love that should have been celebrated with a grand celebration, surrounded and supported by friends and family, was a simple little civil ceremony. The stars of our story are so in love that they don't care to wait, and rush off and get married right away.
A New Life
My grandpa and grandma got a place together, and started their lives as a family, including three of my uncles and my mother. Some time passed, and my grandpa wanted to adopt the four kids as his own. As anyone who has attempted to adopt, it is a tricky process when there are biological parents involved. You have to convince the father to give up his rights as the father to the children. The man who is my biological grandfather, gave up his rights to his children, with a little “convincing” from my great-grandfather. As I said, he really didn't like him all that much. Yes, I said that the man that my grandmother divorced was my biological grandfather. I never knew him, and didn't even know that the man I came to know as my grandfather wasn't my biological grandfather until I was much older.
Years went by, their family grew with the addition of two more girls, my aunts. Followed by numerous grandchildren, one of them being me. We all grew up with the greatest family you could ever imagine. I loved my grandpa with all my heart. He was an amazing, caring, wonderful man. None of us grand kids ever knew the truth of the story. I never found out he wasn't my biological grandfather until after he passed away. I was seventeen when he finally succumbed to a long and courageous battle with melanoma.
I would never say he wasn't my “real” grandfather. To me he was. He was very real, and he was my grandfather. He was creative, intelligent, fair, tough, and loving. If I close my eyes, I can still sometimes recall the way he smelled. It was a mix of leather working chemicals (dyes, adhesives, etc), Old Spice ( I think), and something I have never been able to put my finger on. I loved watching him work on his leather work. I still have the wallet he made me when I was 15. It's 20 years old now, and still looks as good as it did when he first made it for me. It's beautifully crafted with a flower on one side and my name on the other. My grandmother was amazed that I still had it, and that it was still in great shape.
In his absence, the family has continued to grow, with the addition of great-grandchildren that he never got the chance to meet. The first great-grandchild was my son, who I was pregnant with during the end of my grandpa's life. I named my son after the wonderful man he never got to meet in life, but has since joined in heaven. I know they are both watching over me now as I write this.
Several other family members have joined them in heaven, as well. Our family has grown larger over they years, as more great-grandchildren are born, and our gains generally outweigh our losses. The family carries on, and carries on his memory. My grandmother carries on, as well. She keeps his memory alive better than anyone else can. She told me this story a few years ago. It is a wonderful story, that brought me to tears then, and still brings a tear to my eye now. It's strange that I had never heard it before. I am so glad that she shared it with me, though. It's a wonderful story. A story of a man who just happened to walk into a diner one night, guided by the hand of fate.
© 2011 Anna Marie Bowman