My grandmother married young. She ran off with a man eight years older than she was on her 18th birthday. It was the depression era, 1938; with no money for weddings back then, elopement was common.
Three years later, my mother was born, followed by another girl and then a boy. They were raised on the dairy farm that my grandfather had grown up on, milking cows and haying the fields just like previous generations had, and just like all their neighbors were still doing.
My grandmother recalls the end of WWII, of driving into to town with her little girls and husband, horns honking in celebration. What a relief it must have been! Food was rationed during the war, although on the farm Grandma says they were blessed to eat. I’ve heard tales of how they used feed sacks to cover the barn windows, so that when they milked no light would show outside in case there should be enemy planes. They milked by lantern…I have those two lanterns here. They’re rusty and old and I have no clue if they work or not. But they’re precious to me. They speak of hardships during a time that we often think of as being simpler.
My grandfather passed away sixteen years ago, leaving my grandmother a widow. She continued to live on two acres that they’d shared in their post farming years; it was a remnant of the family farm, a small corner located next door to where my aunt now lives. She battled moles in her front yard, swung from rafters in her garage and kept her generator running during cold northeasterly winds.
For ten years she took care of herself and her little plot of land. Then, one day while she was outside spraying water from her hose down mole hills, the phone rang. Of course, she didn’t hear it at the time. But soon she went inside and saw a message on her answering machine, and a voice from the past was telling her he was in the state, a couple hours south, and was she up for a visit? And it took no time at all for her to dial the number that was left by her old high school sweetheart.
Dashing and dapper, Wayne had been a few years older than my grandmother, and like her brothers, he’d served his country during the war. Make that plural. He was a career military man, decorated, even. His wife had died a few years earlier, and he was in Seattle visiting his brother. While there, he began thinking of Grandma, wondering what had ever become of her. It didn’t take long after she’d returned his call for him to hop in the car and come for a visit.
Grandma and Wayne dancing, just like they’d done when they were kids.
Word spread quickly that Grandma was dating again. I was at her house one afternoon when no less than four phone calls came in from gossiping biddies wanting to know all the details. And Grandma sat there with a coy smile on her face, those beautiful big, blue eyes of hers shining. She’d get off the phone, begin to tell me what had been said, when another call would come in. She’d smile some more, hang up and giggle. “Wayne used to date her, too,” she told me, “but I got him when it really counts!”
Yes, Wayne the military man got around some, it seemed, back in his younger days here in this county. All the women between 80-85 seemed to know of him. But they’re not the ones he called on when he came to town. No, the high school flame that’d stayed a small ember for so many years was my none other than my grandmother.
They dated for a few months, and got married in the fall. That’s been just over six years ago. Grandma is currently planning a huge affair this summer for Wayne’s 90th birthday. Naturally, I’ll bring you along via cyber-party.
In the meantime, here’s to Wayne and all the others who served our country in time of need! For the sacrifices you made on foreign soil, or the sacrifices you made at home, God bless you, each and every one!
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