Ah, Valentines Day.
I’m remembering the times she called demanding to know why I didn’t have a date for this most sacred of holidays–and informing me that I simply wasn’t trying hard enough. (“Jenny, when I was your age, I had a date with a different boy every night of the week!”)
I’ve never been much of a fan of Valentines Day. But I’m dedicating this post to my grandparents–whose love story un-Hallmarks the day in the most beautiful ways.
They met at the Philadelphia Inquirer–right after Pop got back from the war. He was a sports editor and she was 18 and working as a copy girl.
Gam will tell you that they met over a hot cup of coffee–even though that’s not exactly true. She was on her way to take her boss his morning cup when she saw my grandpa coming down the hallway. She swooned. He stopped. And . . . . completely ignored her. He was more concerned about catching up with the coworker Gam was with. (“The one who was following me around all day trying to hit on me,” she insists.)
It was what my sister would call an “Epic Fail.” Gam was kind of a bouncy flirt around the office (see cartoon) and the fact that Pop was the only one not biting drove her crazy.
It sure didn’t keep her from trying, though.
While setting up for a company meeting one day, she pointed at my Pop and said to her boss, “That one’s cute . . . can I kiss him?” She skipped right on over and planted a big one, right on his cheek. Apparently she sat in his lap, but I’m not sure I believe it. Then again, I wouldn’t put it past her.
She called him “Uncle John.” With seven years between them, it was a bit of a stretch. But she was smitten.
“Uncle John,” she’d tease. “When are you going to take me out?”
“When you get rid of those bobby socks,” he’d answer, with an eye-roll or two.
“He thought I was way too young,” Gam brags. “But I nailed him!”
—-I love what “dating” looked like back in their day. Diners, drive-ins, dancing. Chocolate shakes with two straws; driving with one hand. Everyone knew how to Jitterbug on Friday nights, sneak out on Saturdays and be on time for church in the morning. Beautiful.
Eventually, nailed, he asked for her hand.
“Not unless you get me a carrot ring!”
The next day, he showed up with a ring that knocked her bobby socks off. So, I guess they both won.
Things to remember:
– The way they flirted. Constantly. It was embarrassing, really. “Hey, hot stuff,” Pop would say, sliding into a restaurant booth next to her. “Is this seat taken?”
– The way they’d always kiss goodnight–even though Pop’s snoring got so bad that they had separate bedrooms.
– The smell of Pop’s shaving cream before taking her out–even if it was just to dinner at the cafeteria at Riddle. Even after the electric razors came out he refused the convenience cause he liked ‘feelin clean.’
– The night Pop asked if I wished I had bozooms like my grandmother. (Awwwkward….)
– Mornings at the kitchen table when Pop would come back from Mass with two bags of Poise Pads under his arm. You’d have thought by Gam’s reaction that they were two dozen roses. Oh, how love grows real with time.
– Hearing Pop croon–yes, croon–with the good old songs I can still hum along with
– The way I felt walking behind them as they held hands on the beach, on walks with the dog, going grocery shopping.
– What Pop taught my dad, from an old letter: “When your wife says ‘Gee, I feel like a pizza!’ the correct response is to head for Homers”
– The way Pop would always tell Gam she looked gorgeous, out loud–even when she was in her PJs; even as she was 75.
– They way they stuck it out–for 64 years. I can’t even imagine.
– The names they had for one another. They way he called her “My Girl.”
– They way they’d get each others’ attention: “Yo, Pat” and “Yoo-hoo!”
– How Pop loved to run out to the store for her. My dad still does the same thing for my mom.
– Nights when I’d hear him call out to her from the second bedroom, weak with cancer, vulnerable yet confident in love.
– How washing midnight soiled sheets said I love you–silently, powerfully.
– The way he reached for her hand on his hospice bed.
– The night at Riddle, just a few days before Pop died. This story deserves its own post, later.
Happy Valentines Day, Gam. Thanks for the cards. Thanks for the example. Thanks for spelling out Love with X’s and O’s and 64 years. And thanks for un-Hallmarking this holiday for me.