I think of my parents who have been married now for forty-four years. Would my mom say that she thought my dad was dang fine? Sure. My grandparents who spent a life time together had their beginnings in a horseshoe game. My grandmother swore that when she saw the back of my grandpa’s head she knew that was the man she would marry. My own marriage of sixteen years began with a double take when I saw my husband for the first time walk by and I thought, wow he is really good looking.
But then I think of the rest of the story, and I realize that these relationships may be steeped in infatuation but they moved on to bigger and better things. I do not profess to be an expert on love, but I will share with you what I believe love is.
My grandma and grandpa lived in rural Tennessee. Grandma Ruby was the only child of Frank Amonette. Frank was a professed bachelor for a good portion of his life and when he finally settled down and married my great- grandmother he was growing older. When my great-grandma Mary died of breast cancer, his fear then was of being alone. He asked my Grandma Ruby to promise him that she would never marry. She would not agree to it, because even as a young woman she knew that it was a promise she couldn’t keep.
Her father did not approve of my grandpa Douglas, for various reasons (I’m sure some of them good reasons). While my Grandpa Douglas was a good man he was human, had his weaknesses and made his mistakes. But she loved him anyway. Because my great-grandfather Frank would not give his blessing, they decided to elope. At one point, on their journey to exchange vows, grandpa Douglas carried my grandma Ruby through a stream so that she wouldn’t get wet. Doesn’t get much more romantic than that does it?But here’s the ever after part. They went on to have children, six of them. At one point my grandma Ruby experienced a very traumatic and difficult miscarriage. The two of them struggled to make ends meet on their tobacco farm while raising their family. The work was hard, the days were long. One of their sons as an adult was involved in an accident and consequentially became a quadriplegic. My grandparents lovingly took care of him until they died. They had many ups and downs throughout their fifty-nine years together.
My own marriage has not been without its problems. My husband and I now have four children of our own. Our second, a son, was diagnosed with autism at the age of two. Finances and the stresses of work and family have been difficult at times. What is my point in telling you all of this? I guess it is to say that I believe true love happens after the happily ever after. It is grounded in joy and sorrow, in work and play, in pleasure and suffering, in passion and temperance. It is facing hard times and working through them together. We are older and weigh more and are wiser and more experienced. I still think he is sexier than ever and sometimes we still make love like it was the first time. I know him and he knows me, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And yet, despite the imperfection, we are solid. We love each other. We love each other enough to work through the moments that are truly bad, because we know that there is still good somewhere in the future. This, for me, is a true love story, hanging on and hanging in with the person you have made promises to and choosing to stay in love despite the odds being against you.