Nostalgialistic: An ode to my grandparents’ love story

It’s worth waiting for the person who will buy you 78 carnations
Sixty-six years later, my grandma remembers their first date on March 13, and the day my grandpa went into the service on Oct. 12. (Photo used with permission from Jaqueline Bayer)
Sixty-six years later, my grandma remembers their first date on March 13, and the day my grandpa went into the service on Oct. 12. (Photo used with permission from Jaqueline Bayer)

I grew up with an idea of love that was nothing short of what would be seen in a black-and-white film. 

I was a five-year-old watching my mom put on her nicest dress and highest heels to go out on a date with my dad for their anniversary.

I was seven listening to my grandma reminisce about the boy next door who swept her off her feet.

But the older I’ve gotten, the more tarnished my idea of love has become. From our grandparents’ teenage years to ours, love has gone from something to be cherished to something bordering on transactional.

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Love seems to be unobtainable. People reap the benefits of a relationship without the security or commitment, always leaving someone crushed.

I went into this article ready to complain about the fruitless venture that is modern-day love, then had the urge to give my grandma a call, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a love story so beautiful.

My grandma and grandpa didn’t grow up together. My grandpa’s parents built a house next to my grandma’s after they were both out of high school, knowing my grandpa was going to be drafted into the service.

They met on the lot line. He was her boy next door.

My grandma was dating someone else when she met my grandpa, and she said she and her boyfriend had fun but she knew he wasn’t the one. When she went out with my grandpa, though, that was a totally different story.

My mother told me the story of one of my grandma and grandpa’s dates years ago, and it’s something that will never leave me.

They were driving, and my grandpa kept pulling over to help people. A man was passed out on the side of the road drunk, and my grandpa got out of the car to bring the man back to his apartment building and make sure he was warm.

The longer my grandma dated my grandpa, the more reasons he gave her to be with him forever.

“I think I was always attracted to his gentle strength,” she said. “There was never any doubt in my mind that he (would) take a bullet for me, but at the same time, he was a very kind man.”

My grandpa always had interesting date ideas, and when they went out, they dressed up. They went to movie theaters downtown because they were extra special. My grandma said that was all part of it.

In August of 1955, my grandparents spent their six-month anniversary strolling through downtown. (Photo used with permission from Jaqueline Bayer)

They dated from March to October before spending 387 days apart when my grandpa was stationed overseas, corresponding almost exclusively by letter until my grandma met up with my grandpa in Germany where they finally got married.

She still has every letter.

“I always felt it was really a good thing for us that when we got married in Germany we honeymooned for a month, and that was kind of like 387 days worth,” she said. “Because that was how long it had been since I saw Grandpa — that was all our dating all bunched together.”

The German authorities and the United States Army weren’t happy with the marriage arrangement, so my grandparents ran around Germany for weeks to get all the proper documentation, which came to about 50 different documents.

They ended up having two weddings. One needed to be a civil service because my grandpa was in the military, and they ended up with a hodgepodge of people there.

Two janitors stood up for them, and the person who gave my grandma away was one of my grandpa’s uncles who spoke exclusively German. She had to elbow him when it was time for him to consent to their marriage and say “I do.”

That service ended up costing them more than the one in the army chapel because of the documents and registration fees they needed to pay. They didn’t need a second wedding, but they wanted to be married in a chapel.

“I always tell grandpa, ‘If you’re going to divorce me, you have to divorce me twice, because it’s tick-tock double lock here. We’re married twice,’” she said.

My grandpa tells my grandma he loves her every night when they go to bed, and he remembers every wedding anniversary.

“He started out with a dozen roses, and one rose for each year we’re married,” she said. “And he still continues to do that, only now we switched to carnations.”

My mom told me my grandpa would need to go to a few different flower shops because one shop never had enough flowers.

“We just were married 66 years. This past year I said, ‘You know, you really don’t have to do 66 years because if you do, you’re going to have to find me a five-gallon bucket. I don’t know where to go with all these flowers,’” my grandma said.

It’s stories like my grandparents’ that bring me hope for the future. There are a lot of people who will play with your heart, but there are still people out there who will love you like you deserve.

“It’s not in a wedding license that he’ll care for you even though you’ve had breast cancer and uterine cancer,” my grandma said. “It is for better or for worse.”

Price can be reached at [email protected].

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