It was a bit of a whirlwind, so there wasn’t time to see friends. We had dinner with my parents a couple of times and with my 94-year-old grandfather, Pa-Pa.
My grandmother died 20 years ago and he has been in his current relationship for about 19 years now.
Pa-Pa fought in WWII. He was stationed on the island of Saipan as an aircraft officer for the US Army AirCorp. He got married to my grandmother before going overseas. When he returned, he joined his older brother and my great grandfather, who had a folding box company in Hoboken, New Jersey.
I’m an only child and an only grandchild on my mother’s side. I worshipped my grandfather growing up. He used to make the best pancakes when I stayed over with pure maple syrup and Tiptree Black Currant Preserves. Once I put a sign outside his house that said: “Pa-Pa’s perfect pancakes”. I told him they were too good to keep to ourselves.
I interned at his company for a couple of summers when I was in school and worked there for almost three years after college before deciding to go to graduate school for psychology. The possibility was there for me to be the next in line. My first email address was firstname.lastname@example.org.
When I told Pa-Pa that I didn’t want to continue working at the company and that I wanted to go to graduate school, he was understanding and supportive. He didn't want me to stay if it wasn't right for me.
After completing my master’s degree at NYU in general psychology, I decided to go to London to study child psychology at the Anna Freud Centre.
Pa-Pa loves to tell the story about what happened during that dinner. At one point when I went to the bathroom, he told Deb that I liked her and that I was shy and he asked her if she liked me. I inadvertently locked my keys in my apartment that night and ended up sleeping on the floor of Deb’s dorm room (nothing happened). A few months later we were engaged. That was 15 years ago.
My grandfather was married to my grandmother for over 50 years. He loved and adored her. Before Deb and I got married, he told me that the key to a good marriage is to always put her first.
At dinner this weekend, I asked Pa-Pa how he feels to be 94. He’s the last remaining sibling and he has had a tough time physically in the last few years. This is what he said:
“When I’m home alone, I feel like I’m 94. When I’m with my love, I feel young.”
Deb and I looked at each other and started to cry. It wasn't a platitude. It was pure love. What an inspiration to think that everything just melts away when he looks at her, that nothing else matters and time stands still.
It's easy for relationships to become stale over time and for reciprocity to turn into mutual deprivation. Pa-Pa has walked his talk in his 70+ years of relationships with my grandmother and in his current relationship. All you need to do is look at the twinkle in his blue eyes to see it.