December 05, 2005

Frank and Mary

My grandparents have been married for over 60 years, to me this is unfathomable I can barely begin to conceive the idea of living for 60 years much less living with someone else for 60 years. They have had an amazing life, my grandfather being in the Navy they moved all over the country, even Hawaii and had 5 beautiful children that amassed into the most fantastic extended family one could imagine. However their romance seems to be coming to a bump in the road, I say bump not end because theirs is a love that knows no restrictions.

My grandfather has Parkinson’s, which is a form of Alzheimer’s, so his mind comes and goes as well as half of his body shaking almost constantly. My grandma was diagnosed with dementia earlier this year. Their health has descended so quickly that it has become hard for me to visit them and see them in their current shells that were not so long ago jovial bodies. Each has been in and out of the hospital or a home at various times and everyday the “free” one would go and visit the other, every day. They so wanted to be together in their home but their conditions no longer warranted privacy or the romantic seclusion they yearned for. I often question how my grandfather put up with her. She was crazy and bossy and downright mean, especially to him, hitting him with her cane and often picking on him or making fun of him for peeing his pants, because he also has a bladder control problem. But he did he put up with her; he loved her through it all. I often chalked this up to the fact that for a good part of their marriage he was probably away on leave in the Navy but I can’t really be sure. When asked about his wife, Mary, Frank would say, “ It’s a great, great love.” My Grandfather as I know him is stoic and a man of little words and soft spoken. Those words that he did utter were always of great importance to me and I always took great care in what he had to say. I think he was this way because Mary never shut up, constantly talking especially to strangers about anything and everything, I guess maybe this was why they worked so well together. Was he quiet because she talked or did she talk because he was quiet?

On Friday night my grandmother had a stroke. That same night I dreamt of her, she was her usual self, ornery and naughty, with a hat on, she always wore hats. She had no unsolved mystery kind of message, she was just there talking to me, I woke up feeling something had happened to her and didn’t find out until later that day that she had the stroke. Yesterday I went with my parents to visit her. No one prepared me for the fact that she was incoherent and paralyzed on half her body and stuck in a twisted position or that she would be gurgling because she could barely swallow on her own. Her shell was hanging on, barely. I held her hand and talked to her and told her that I had done my hair the way she liked, she loved my hair a certain way and would often tell me when it was wrong. The doctors have told the family to make a plan and that she may pass by the end of the week. The five children are taking it hard, as this will be the first death of someone in our close-knit extended family. Personally I feel like she has lead an amazing life and that its just about her time.

They have taken my grandfather to see her everyday as is the usual accustomed and if they didn’t take him the day would be full of questions as to where his Mary was. At first he thought that the doctors would fix her, he didn’t understand the brevity of his love’s condition. My mother went with him today and said he stood and touched her face and wiped her brow as minutes passed and was silent, as my mother sobbed in the corner. After he looked up and asked, “ where is Mary?” when told this was Mary he chuckled to himself and said “oh right” came back to her and petted her more. Then came to my mother and stood close to her and said in three days something will happen. No doctor or nurse had told him, Mary had told him. In three days we will see if his oracle is correct and then we can only assume that he will be leaving to join Mary and their romance will only grow deeper. They are too close and too deeply in love to be in other worlds.

My Mother on my grandparents love:
“A certain mystery between the two of them that no man can figure out”

As I waited for my parents outside the hospital yesterday this song came on my ipod, it is their love, it is Frank singing to Mary.

Love of mine some day you will die
But I'll be close behind
I'll follow you into the dark

No blinding light or tunnels to gates of white
Just our hands clasped so tight
Waiting for the hint of a spark
If heaven and hell decide
That they both are satisfied
Illuminate the no's on their vacancy signs

If there's no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark

You and me have seen everything to see
From Bangkok to Calgary
And the soles of your shoes are all worn down
The time for sleep is now
It's nothing to cry about
Cause we'll hold each other soon
The blackest of rooms

If heaven and hell decide
That they both are satisfied
Illuminate the no's on their vacancy signs

If there's no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark
Then I'll follow you into the dark

--- edited version of I will follow you into the dark
Death Cab for Cutie


Croaker said...

It seems like the odds are against us see the same kind of long term relationship. good to see examples of those that do exist.

Doug said...

Nice post. My grandfather was also stoic and rarely spoke. After my grandmother died, he repeated the same story of the beautiful black-haired angel he had met and wouldend up crying. It was hard to watch.

Alice: In Wonderland or Not said...

Indeed sixty years is an incredible amount of time to spend with someone.
They had sixty years - they are very lucky.

SwamiPaul said...

Hey GirlRio...thanks for loving your grandparents so.

Remember to breathe. Be well.

mireille said...

oh honey. be glad you witnessed a love like this one. they're rare. xoxo