i only met Neil's grandparents in the last few years of their lives. Neil and i had only been married for a summer - and we'd just had our fresh tiny new girlie when Neil got laid off from his job pouring concrete precast forms. He was discouraged and anxious to provide for us - as we both had a dream of having mama stay at home with any children we'd have. One day, a couple of months after his 19th birthday, my husband came home and said, "Let's go to Manitoba."
i'm always game for adventure - and so we packed our bags and climbed into our horrible little white car and drove from BC across Alberta, and then a seemingly never ending Saskatchewan,... stopping at dirty gas stations to change diapers and nurse our darling before finally arriving at that sweet corner house in Minitonas, Manitoba.
We rang their bell - bedraggled and exhausted - and they bustled us in the door.
Alvin and Anna.
They welcomed us in... fed us fresh home made buns and cranberry juice that was so tart, it would turn you inside out. They cooed over our baby. He wondered if his great-granddaughter was getting enough milk as she was so painfully tiny - and she told me that Cai's forehead was so big, her head must be chock full of brains.
They loved her...
And because we were Neil's, they welcomed us into their family - holding nothing in reserve.
i never knew them when they were newlyweds - decades before i was even born... or through the thick of their childbearing years... raising their family and making sacrifices for the ones they loved...
i only met them in the twilight...
And what i saw changed me and any expectations i had begun to form on my own fresh, unspoiled marriage and family.
They were some kind of a team those two...
When, a few months later, we moved to Manitoba - to a tiny house just down the road from them, i'd see them out walking together. They were desperate not to slip on the icy sidewalks knowing that one fall could cost them their health and independence and they'd walk slowly and carefully, holding each other protectively - walking to and from the tiny community hall where they'd meet other seniors to play shuffleboard.
He knew she was funny... i saw it in the way his eyes twinkled when she said something off-colour.
She knew he was dependable... i saw it in the way they worked side by side.
She was spunky and good natured.
He was helpful and loyal.
Their home was companionable... comfortable... welcoming...
And i watched - young bride that i was... as their love story wound sweetly to it's end.
Only 4 months after we arrived, she suddenly passed away. Neil's extended family gathered in shock at the hospital - wondering if there was any hope, and i remember him saying that she had grabbed her chest and sighed, "Oh Alvin..." before he called the ambulance...
The whole community mourned, it seemed. She was a tiny spark of a woman - but even at her age, she still retained that rare beauty that's so easy to recognize and admire. At a family service, he stood and his voice trembled and shook as he said, "It was 56 years we had together... i only wish it had been longer."
It was maybe 5 years later when he followed her - only days after his 90th birthday.
He waited till he had his children gathered around his bedside and then it was almost like he just decided to go. i remember being told that he kept saying, "i'm ready. i'm ready."
How i want a marriage that is long and fruitful - that is companionable and comfortable.... but never, ever long enough. How i want a life story that ends with a readiness for eternity... How i long for a love story that impacts a generation that isn't yet here... and how grateful i am that i got exposed to theirs.... even if it was - just as the sun was setting on it.