Monday, February 13, 2012
To understand this story, you need to know a little about my grandparents.
My grandmother was a very young, very high-spirited woman when she met my grandfather. He was quite a bit older than she--somewhere in the fifteen years older range--and much more quiet and reserved. While they were opposites in many ways, they did have some things in common, beyond the fact that they both had been born in Ireland, that is. They each were the oldest of five, and they each had inherited the responsibility of supporting their respective families at a very young age. My grandmother was already a nurse, at the time they met, and apparently back then it was common for unmarried nurses to live in the hospitals where they worked.
From the start, it seemed that no one was very much in favor of the match. Their families, who depended on them and weren't anxious to lose their primary breadwinners, didn't really see the benefit of either of them getting involved with anyone. My grandmother's friends, on the other hand, all the nurses she worked and lived with, thought she deserved to find someone much better. Someone closer to her own age. Someone who didn't already have family responsibilities. Someone who could appreciate her lively temperament and wouldn't soon become just another elderly patient for her to take care of. Eventually, my grandmother began to wonder if they weren't right.
Maybe he was too old. Maybe he'd always put his family first. Maybe they'd never be able to afford a home and a family of their own. She began to wonder if she didn't owe it to herself to break things off with him now before she fell any more in love, or missed out on the chance to find someone else, someone better suited. So she did what any good Irish Catholic girl back then would do, she went to church and prayed for a sign. And that's where my story begins...
The holiday was coming up and all the other nurses were happily anticipating all the fun they would have on their dates. Mary had a date too, but it was sure to be a very quiet one. John worked long hours as a building inspector for the city of New York; he was on his feet all day, and a good portion of his salary went to help support his mother. So there'd be no dancing and no expensive presents--none of the things Mary's friends were looking forward to. John would arrive late and leave early and she'd have to endure her friends' pity.
As had become a habit lately, Mary found herself wondering if she wasn't making a mistake. As much as she loved spending time with John, she' was beginning to despair of their chances of ever having anything more permanent or meaningful. And, more than anything, she wanted someone she could build a future with, someone who wouldn't take her for granted, or see her as just another paycheck. She wanted someone who'd be as devoted to her as she wanted to be to him.
Have I mentioned yet that Mary was a Pisces? Well, she was. And Pisces have a tendency sometimes to get some very odd ideas in their heads. Mary decided that this Valentine's Day night she'd receive the sign she'd been praying for. She became convinced that when John arrived for their date, she'd take one look at him and she'd instantly know whether or not they had a future, whether or not their love was something worth fighting for.
Valentine's Day dawned cloudy and gray and soon it began to snow. And snow. And snow. As the day wore on and the storm continued, parties and events began to be cancelled. Roads were closed. Public transportation ground to a halt. One by one the other nurses began to get phone calls from their dates apologizing for the fact that they wouldn't be able to make it. Mary received no such call.
And isn't that a sign, she thought bitterly, as the hour when John had been expected came and went without any word from him. It wasn't the sign she'd been hoping for, but it was certainly a sign all the same. It was obvious he wasn't coming. And, yes, she could certainly understand why! But if he'd cared at all, wouldn't he at least call and let her know? The fact that he hadn't could only mean that he was already taking her for granted--just as her friends had warned.
Disheartened, and more than a little disappointed, if truth be told, Mary decided to go to bed. Tomorrow she'd write John a letter and tell him it was over between them. That's when the knock came at the front door.
The orderly on duty was surprised that anyone should be out on such a night, but he opened the door and there stood John. He was late, as he explained to Mary, because the buses had stopped running and he'd had to walk. He hadn't called to say he wasn't coming because "not coming" had never crossed his mind. He knew she was expecting him and he'd given her his word he'd be there. He couldn't disappoint her, or himself.
Besides, he'd been looking forward to seeing her all week and he wasn't about to let a little snow interfere with that. Not even if it meant he'd be arriving even later and leaving even earlier than planned, and walking back, through the snow, to get home.
Just as Mary had predicted, she took one look at him that night and knew he was the man she could build a future with. Someone who would always be there for her, who'd be true to his word. Someone who'd love her just as deeply as she would love him.
Now, I'd like to tell you that that winter storm was the last they'd have to weather but that wouldn't be completely true. Hey, I told you they were Irish, didn't I? So you gotta know Fate would never let them off that easy. They had more than their share of sorrows, including the deaths of their first two infant daughters, followed by a miscarriage. Just as the Gypsy Fortune Teller had predicted (oh, didn't I mention the Gypsy? Never mind, that's a story for another day) they only had one child who lived to adulthood. But, for all of that, during the time they did have together John and Mary were blissfully content and they remained devoted to each other right up until the end. We all should be so lucky.
Happy (almost) Valentine's Day, everyone!
Posted by PG Forte at 8:08 AM