Mrs. G's brother reminded her yesterday how much their grandmother loved saving S&H Green Stamps and regularly flipping through the rewards catalog imagining glorious prizes. She licked and licked, hoping to fill enough books to win a cuckoo clock or a lighter shaped like a woodpecker.
Mrs. G. received the news of her grandmother's cancer only two weeks before she died. She and her family had just returned home from San Diego, on what was their first vacation ever. Mrs. G's grandmother had insisted that no one tell them the news of her cancer lest it spoil their trip. When Mrs. G. and her family returned home, they unpacked their suitcases, and an hour or so later, Mrs. G. got The Call. She and her family repacked their suitcases and drove to Memphis the next day.
The first couple of days of their visit, and Mrs. G. is sure visit is not the right word, it was more like an exit interview. Her grandmother was somewhat cogent despite an unsettling vacant stare. The entire family sat around, still reeling, really, like it was an ordinary Sunday visit. Mrs. G's kids, both toddlers at the time, provided much needed distraction, and her grandfather, so choked up he could hardly speak, plied them with Hershey's Kisses. He unwrapped one chocolate Kiss after another and popped them into Mrs. G's children's mouths. For once, Mrs. G. didn't give a shit how much sugar her kids ate. It provided comfort, solace and she had no intention of stopping it.
Mrs. G's grandmother died four days later at home in her bed. Mrs. G, her mom and her aunt stayed by her grandmother's bedside and did all that they could to comfort her. Mrs. G's grandfather paced the hall outside of the bedroom but would not come in. He simply couldn't. Every few minutes, he would stop outside the door and bark at the three of them to be more gentle for Christ's sake or to wipe her face with a cool cloth for the love of God. The Hospice nurse finally arrived and placed a morphine patch on Mrs. G's grandmother's arm. A few hours later, she died just the way she wanted -- at home, peacefully and with little drama. There would be no memorial service, no funeral. Even in death, fanfare was just not her style.
Mrs. G, her mom and her aunt said their goodbyes and went into the living room to wait for the people from the funeral home to arrive. Mrs. G's grandfather finally entered his wife's room. A few minutes later, he came back into the living room, sat in his chair and cried. Then he dropped the bomb:
"I'm going to tell you girls something we never told anybody. I met that woman on a blind date and we married that same night. We spent 56 years together and I loved Melly every day. We never told anyone about it, because she thought it was trashy."
Mrs. G. and her mother were stunned and she means stunned and, naturally, they had a few questions. But that was all he had to say. And Mrs. G's grandfather, always wary of emotion, rarely spoke of her grandmother again.
Mrs. G. returned home and forced herself back into the daily routine of taking care of her kids, but her grandfather's revelation dogged her...in the shower, in the car, in the bed before sleep. She endlessly wondered how these two people, who she'd known her whole life and were astonishingly predictable, could have met and married on the first date. Was it champagne and Big Band music? Desperation? Practicality? A lost poker game?
Mrs. G's grandfather died of lung cancer about a year after he lost his bride. Mrs. G. tried to talk to him several times about his sprint to the altar. She sent him many emails, hoping that the distance of dial-up would make it easier for him to remember. He didn't respond for some time, and when he did, he simply wrote sorry, can't talk.
Mrs. G. will never know the real story about that first and last date in 1942. Her grandparents took it with them to the grave. This was their trashy secret. So reader, listen carefully to what Mrs. G. has learned the hard way -- gather your family stories while you can, before time and loved ones slip away.