The Meaning of Love
by Connie H. Deutsch
Although we didn’t live with my grandparents, they were an integral part of our lives. All my aunts and uncles and the older children went to their home every Friday night; the younger children spent Sundays with my grandfather. I got in the habit of associating Friday nights as belonging to my grandmother because that is when she would shine. Sunday afternoons belonged to my grandfather, and he was definitely able to shine with his grandchildren.
I couldn’t wait until I was deemed old enough to have the privilege of going to their home on Friday nights. That was special. I got to stay up late and listen to the grown-ups. It was the most exciting thing in my young life and I couldn’t wait to be part of it.
We would have dinner at our house at our regular time and then we would head over there. As soon as we walked in, my grandmother would say, “Sit down and eat.” No one had the nerve to tell her we had just finished a big meal and couldn’t stuff another thing into our bodies. We were herded into the kitchen where my grandmother brought out dish after dish and told us to eat. In all the years I went there, I never saw her sit down; she was constantly in motion, bringing out platters of food and saying, “Eat.” At the end of the meal, our second for the night in two hours, she would put a bowl of walnuts on the table, along with a large platter of fruit and we were all expected to eat.
Sunday afternoons were exceptional. My grandfather would herd all of his grandchildren to an afternoon movie. He would tell us to decide what we wanted to see. We fought over the movie we wanted to see, each one wanting a different one, arguing and crying, no consensus reached, and finally, when he reached his tolerance level, he took us to a movie of his choice. A foreign film with subtitles. We didn’t dare object. This was our grandfather and we didn’t want to run the risk of him not wanting to spend his Sunday afternoons with us.
In looking back with adult eyes, I realize that we were his greatest joy, second to my grandmother, and he would never have stopped his Sunday afternoons with us regardless of all the crying and arguing we subjected him to. For him, that was like white noise and he loved every minute of it. He also enjoyed teasing us, but what he loved most, was teasing my grandmother who didn’t have the same whimsical sense of humor. It was cute to watch. She would be so serious and whenever he caught her off-guard, he would have that devilish twinkle in his eyes as if he were a small boy who had just gotten away with playing a silly prank.
We were always regaled with stories of how they knew it was love at first sight. She was fourteen when they met; he thought she was much older and they got married almost immediately. When he found out how young she was, he went into his protective mode and never went out of it. For all the years they had together, he treated her like a rare prize to be cherished. Toward the end of his life, when he was in the hospital, I was there with my mother and grandmother and he turned to my grandmother and said to her, “Thank you for the most wonderful fifty-four years of my life.” To this day, I think those are the most beautiful words I have ever heard.
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