I know we are well past Valentine’s Day weekend, but I have carried my grandmother Rosa’s love story in my back pocket since I began collecting stories to tell. I consider that I’m either late for this year or early for the next, but some love stories never get old, and this may be the year Rosa’s finally gets on the page.
The truth is that when Valentine’s Day comes around, what I remember about Rosa, causes me to speculate about love and the hype associated with happily ever after. What is it about a connection between two people that goes beyond the “I do” and society’s expectations? What keeps some people together for decades while others give up after the first round of conflict? I’ve put down some thoughts, actually lots of thoughts, which I will share over the coming days.
Each year, countless individuals put LOVE at the center of their vision boards or at the top of their list of New Year’s resolutions. No matter what age group or whether looking for a new or improved relationship, we find hearts filled with hopes and dreams of catching that elusive mythical butterfly of love.
In the same way that marketing and merchandizing stir up dreams of the proverbial romantic love, social media keeps pace with the trend. The newsfeeds are flooded with memes, poems, and words of wisdom involving love and relationships to address all expectations or interpretations of love.
After decades of trial and error, I’ll share some reflections based solely on my personal observations or experience.
I remember that before there was social media and its memes, I would take the personality quizzes in my teen magazines to find the characteristics to look for in my perfect match, my soulmate. Then, I would turn to the back pages to find my horoscope to see if a tall, dark, and handsome stranger would cross my path that month.
Thankfully, along with the fantasy, there are genuinely informative and helpful articles. Sometimes the headings tend to be sensationalized to intrigue the reader, but generally, one can find a helpful nugget or two. Some common themes that have crossed my desktop are: The Egomaniac Partner; How to Recognize a Toxic Person; What to do if your Love Language doesn’t Translate; Don’t be a Doormat; Self-love is the best love, and variations of these. These are not actual titles but if you are interested in these topics, use your search engine to find information and expert opinion.
The Grandmother Stories –
This finally brings me to my grandmother’s story. In 1893, Rosa was a young girl of fourteen when she married Carlos, who was four years older. He bought her a house on the edge of town, and together they had thirteen children, seven of which made it to adulthood as caring and loving individuals. My grandfather Carlos was a hardworking, honest man of his time. To his grandchildren, he was loving, and we remember him as an old bulldog with a bark worse than his bite. There was no question, though, that he was the law and the justice of his little personal fiefdom. I’m told that in his youth, his personality and good looks gave him certain liberties with the women in town. By the social standards of her time, my grandmother had to learn to accept it. She didn’t like it, but she was a woman that stood by her man, faithful no matter what.
I remember once, when her sister Lola was visiting for a few days, she teased my grandmother about this. Lola told us about a certain younger woman from down the street who, now in her seventies, still made sure she had bright red lipstick on when she walked by my grandparents’ house on her way to town. I was not accustomed to seeing my sweet grandmother with ruffled feathers, but that day, between gritted teeth, she said to her sister, “Oh hush! That old fool looks ridiculous wearing such vulgar lipstick at her age.” I had to laugh because I couldn’t believe that she apparently still had issues about an affair my grandfather had after all these years. What was that all about? Was that Love? Was she still insecure about her marriage after almost seventy years? Different times, different culture- maybe?
Several years later, a couple months after my grandfather died, a few of us went over to check-in and visit with Rosa. Truthfully, I don’t remember all the conversations that day. We were all bustling around cooking, cleaning, and trying to keep her spirits up. Still, I remember that she broke my heart when she quietly interrupted to tell us, “I don’t think I will make it to Valentine’s Day this year. I have celebrated Valentine’s Day with Carlos since before I was fourteen. I don’t think I can do it alone this year.”
Days later, I got a call that my grandmother was in ICU at the hospital where I worked. She was with a pulmonary embolism and not doing well. I went up to see her, kissed her forehead, and held her hand. Her eyes fluttered, and she was gone. It was Valentine’s Day. She was determined to spend it with Carlos for all eternity.
My paternal grandmother, Euphemia, has a different story. Whenever I think of Rosa, I naturally think of her. One day with a house full of people, she sought me out, and silently sat by my side while I watched my little girls feed and chase the chickens in her yard. After a bit, she whispered, “Does Eddie ever visit you?” Eddie, my husband, passed at a young age. A muted anguish in her tone alarmed me.
Based on family stories, I understand that Eufemia’s was an arranged marriage. She was well into her 20s – almost a spinster by the social norms of her culture. Perhaps, some say she was firmly encouraged by her parents to marry her cousin’s cousin, my grandfather, Saturno. He was ten years her senior. They had seven children.
In response to her question, I told her that I vividly dreamed of him a couple of times during the first year. She put her head down as her dark eyes glistened with tears and said, “Saturno, never visited me. I guess he never really loved me.”
They had been married fifty years at the time of his death at seventy-two. At the time of our conversation, she had survived him by about thirty years. Sadly, she waited for him to show his love – from beyond the grave. Was this Love? I can’t imagine what it would be like living all those years, wondering if your husband loved you. We never spoke of it again. She passed many years later at the age of one hundred and five. I always wonder if they met again in another life.
It is Better to Have Loved
I am a firm believer in the premise of the famous quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson, “’tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” It took me years to find a balance after my life and dreams were turned upside down by my first husband’s death. However, I have been fortunate to have experienced unconditional love and support from family and friends, some of whom have already passed. I have been widowed, divorced, betrayed by close friends and lovers – and still, I believe.
What do I believe about love? It is magical! You can’t package it, and you really can’t fake it. But it’s not the same for everyone. It’s that feeling of warm sunshine on your face, but it also warms your heart when you are with a loved one. It feels like tickles and giggles and laughter till your sides ache. It’s feeling safe in someone’s arms, like when a mother cradles a baby. It’s a child feeding or bathing an elderly parent. It’s a partner shoveling the driveway so that you can get to work. It’s a friend bringing you chicken soup when you are under the weather. It’s a pooch or a kitty following you around until it can cuddle and comfort you when you’ve had a hard day. I can go on. I think it’s wonderful, painful, risky, and scary but worth it. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments.
Elusive Butterfly of Love – Bob Lind 1966
Quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson (Brainyquote.com)
Photo- Love Year-Round Yoga Digest