“Write about your grandparents,” she demands.
Not so easy. My grandmother died when I was six, and my grandfather went from VA Hospital to nursing home in short order, dying five quick years later. What do I write about? Funny thing is, the one thing I know for sure is that my grandparents loved each other.
How do I know that so certainly, considering how little I knew them?
Physically, they were a mismatch. Boo-Pa was six foot two, as straight and solid as a tree, with a large, angular face and thick straight dark blonde hair that was snow white by the time I was 5.
Nanny was petite, as delicate as a tiny bird, with small wise light blue eyes that crinkled when she smiled, a small, heart-shaped mouth that was always curved upward, and tiny feet and hands.
He was gruff and quiet, with a large presence.
She was dainty and sweet with a kindness that enveloped all who came near.
My other grandmother, Marmu, proclaimed to me years later that Nanny had been a true saint.
“Not saintly, not just a nice person or any of that,” Marmu explained earnestly. “But an honest-to-God saint.”
How does a saint live with a sinner. How does a sinner live with a saint?
I saw their marriage in stark relief when I was five years old, early Christmas morning.
They were staying with us and sleeping in my brother’s bedroom. Despite my mother’s protestations, I tiptoed in their room to wake them up. I wanted to play. BooPa was snoring. They were curled up in each other’s arms. I giggled, then jumped on their bed.
They woke with a start, Nanny with a smile on her tiny face, BooPa with a snarl as he jumped out of bed.
He was naked! I’d never seen a naked man, and I was absolutely fascinated.
“Phil,” my grandmother admonished. Just that one word, spoken softly but with an edge to it, got him moving faster than I thought a big man should. He jumped into his boxer shorts and turned to look at her abashedly.
“I didn’t know she’d wake us up!” he said, ignoring me, wanting only approval from his wife.
Lucky BooPa, I thought briefly. But how does Nanny live with such a creature?
Now, looking back, I see it as an age-old question between men and women.
- The beast.
- The sour.
- The hard.
And it all churns, somehow, into love.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have anything to write for my English class. After all, I never really got to know my grandparents.
“We don’t love qualities, we love persons; sometimes by reason of their defects as well as of their qualities.” – Jacques Maritain