A few weeks before moving, I spent an afternoon at my grandmother’s house. Despite a year having passed since Granddad did, it never feels natural to refer to the house as only hers. The many rooms are theirs in the way that the goats are theirs, the grandchildren are theirs, the life is theirs.
On this afternoon I was surprised to be told, for the first time, of an encounter she had with Granddad just after they had been introduced by mutual friends. Seventeen year-old Grandmom’s parents were out for the evening, so she tied her hair into a messy tangle on top of her head, donned scrubby work clothes, and set about cleaning house in pleasant solitude — that is, until James Kite appeared, unannounced in his sharp Navy uniform.
She was so flustered by her informal appearance, and by him in general, that when she excused herself to throw away a pail of potato skins she’d been holding at his arrival, she frantically tossed them into a bin of washed laundry instead of the garbage.
They were married three months later. Once, when asked what they would do differently in life, they responded, “We wouldn’t have waited three months.”
I love to think of my grandparents young and swooning, before facing hardships together of every sort. But I also relished watching them, in their sixties and seventies and beyond, flirt with and tease each other. Their bond, however deep and hard-won, never lost its mischievous spark.
Their love makes me love the world more. I see them in every elderly couple holding hands, shuffling gingerly together, endless volumes of joy and sadness in slow bones. I often wonder if it matters whether I ever claim such an ending for myself; perhaps it’s enough just to be alive in a divine world where people take the long way together.
I see this when, after telling the funny potato peel anecdote, Grandmom sighs. “This winter I wore his robe, and it still smelled like him.” She pauses, and I cry.
“And you know what? It helped.”