My grandparents met when they were teenagers. Young teenagers, in fact, as my Nana was only 13. They were married before either one was 20 – on May 11, 1946 – and moved to California because Pop was in the navy. After his tour of duty, they moved back to New York, Nana in her 1940s pencil skirts and Pop in his navy uniform.
They had six kids and 15 crazy grandchildren. The family lived in a two bedroom apartment in the Bronx projects until my mom, the third oldest, was 11. They then moved upstate to Westchester County, in a home almost big enough for all of them, and eventually, all of us. Thirty years ago, they bought a bungalow on Long Island, right on the Moriches Bay, and eventually expanded it for their growing family. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.
Nana and Pop never wanted more than to love each other and provide for their family. It never occurred to them that there was anything else to be done in the world. They weren’t interested in finding themselves, their purpose in life, because they had already found it in each other. On a boilermaker’s salary they owned three homes in the most expensive places to live in the world. They had grandchildren that called them everyday just to say hi. And they had each other to kiss goodnight. Every night. And they were happy.
When Pop died on Dec. 21, 2007, I couldn’t help but wonder how Nana could live without her partner of 61 years of marriage, 67 years of friendship, and countless memories. Together, they taught their children – all of whom have been married for 17 years or more – how to love unconditionally, and set that example for their grandchildren, who have already, or will one day soon, be finding partners of their own.
We need a few more Nanas and Pops in the world. I’m certain it would be a much better place. Happy Anniversary. And thanks for loving each other, and me.