My grandfather, who I affectionately refer to as “Deda,” passed away just about a month ago. As I’ve already mentioned, Mom and I have been staying with Grandma. Today would have been their 65th Wedding Anniversary.
The song in the title has been swimming in my head for almost two months. You see, it’s their song. My connection with music has always been one I’ve shared with my grandparents, who taught me to dance the foxtrot at age 10 (they tried to teach me the lindy and others, but I didn’t take as well to those unfortunately). A few years ago, I’d dressed up ’40s style and came to sing to them on their Anniversary. And of course, I sang “Always.” (This site has a nice explanation and lyrics of the song.)
I spend a lot of time now remembering; but I know the biggest and most important lesson I’ll learn was the last one they taught me together, summed up in that old familiar song…
It was the lesson I learned when my 92-year-old grandfather, the night before he was rushed to the emergency room, had to take the extra steps– walker in hand and aide behind– to kiss my grandmother goodnight, because he couldn’t let her go to sleep without kissing her. As he walked into the bedroom, he told us– my mother, the aide and I– that she was his life.
It was the lesson I learned when, on a respirator, unable to speak, he mouthed “I love you” to my Grandma.
It was the lesson I learned when my Grandma, who’s been very sick herself for about a year, forces herself to get dressed and out of the house every day for two weeks straight, and still after, several times a week, to visit Deda in ICU: An old woman, sitting in a wheelchair, near the bedside of an old man, on a respirator, on a feeding tube, IVs scattered about: holding hands.
And even though it was difficult, she’d force herself to stand almost every night, just to look into his eyes, touch his face, brush his hair back with her hand, maybe kiss his shoulder.
For a single 25-year-old, I don’t think there could be a stronger image of what it means to be there for someone “in sickness and in health, for better or for worse.” And I sat there for days and stared at the epitome of “in sickness” and “for worse.”
But my grandparents meant those vows when they said them. And they meant them every time they danced them as well. “Not for just an hour, not for just a day, not for just a year, but Always.*”
Happy Anniversary, Grandma and Deda, even though this year you’re spending it apart. And Thank You, for every moment, lesson, and story- big or small.
[The picture is my grandparents’ engagement photo– one of my very favorites of them.]
*Irving Berlin, Always, 1925