we will celebrate our six year wedding anniversary.
It’s at this point I’d like to just point out we were 16 when we got married.
So six years ago, Frank was texting me, telling me that he broke his arm (he didn’t) and that he would need a cast (he didn’t). And I was thinking, “Crud, he’s going to have to hide his arm in all of our wedding photos.” Good thing that Frank was just playing a joke (good thing…).
It was such a rich, vibrant time in my life – but also fast and busy. So many things in my life were changing at break-neck speeds, it was hard to keep things organized. And often we didn’t keep things organized.
In the midst of Frank and I starting our new life together, my grandfather passed away. My grandfather gave me a great appreciation for strong male personalities. I find myself drawn to men with bigger-than-life-personalities and even larger opinions. Meanwhile, my dad’s strong, but very diplomatic and wise personality was a nice balance for my grandfather’s influence. In many ways, Frank is the perfect blend of the two men.
While my parents’ marriage is it’s own great love story, and I love it, my grandparent’s love story was legendary.
They met when Nani was 11 and Papa was 14. Papa’s mom made him share part of his candy bar with Nani. Knowing Papa’s sweet tooth, this was no small sacrifice.
When Papa was a teenager, he went off to fight in World War II. He didn’t speak much of his time there, but when he did, he was very emotional. When he came home, he went to a New Year’s Eve party and Nani was there. Nani was a model and I always imagined that there was a halo of perfect lighting wherever she went. That night, several young men were vying for her attention and it wasn’t until midnight that my grandfather finally won the battle for Nani. He wasted no time – that night they set a date for their wedding and they were married on June 12 of that new year. (6 month long engagements are genetic, I guess)
Their love affair never faded. Vibrant, passionate – their love affair simply evolved and grew over the years. They loved to have a good time, throw a big party, surround themselves with friends and family. As a little girl, I remember catching them smooching in the kitchen and holding hands. It always seemed fresh and sweet.
They argued, absolutely. I don’t know any couples that don’t argue.
On June 12th, 2003, they celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary. I was in another room while they ate breakfast together and heard Nani say to Papa, “How did you love me all of these years?” And he answered back simply and plainly, “Because I just do.”
Less than a month later, Papa passed away in his sleep. I had dreaded that moment for years and years prior to it actually happening. As a little girl, when I became aware of their intensity for each other and then became aware of death, I always hoped that they would die together so that they wouldn’t have to know any days separated from one another. I know that sounds horrible, but it’s true. They were each other’s entire world, and when Papa passed away, Nani’s heart was totally broken.
She made it another three years and just around Valentine’s Day, she passed away. I suppose, as my Uncle Steve pointed out, it was only fitting.
And so what does their love story have to do with Frank’s and my love story? Oh, many things I believe. They made a decision, every day, to love one another. They managed to do what so many others fail to do: turn around previous generations’ issues of alcoholism and infidelity. Their love was powerful enough to clean the slate of what they inherited from their families so that their children wouldn’t grow up in a broken home. They taught my mom what to look for in a mate and she, in turn, passed that along to me.
It wasn’t perfectly executed, but it was love.
In the midst of Frank and I planning our wedding, we stopped to remember Papa and Nani’s marriage and love story when Papa passed away.
My father-in-law likes to talk about the giants in our lives. The people who came before us, on whose shoulders we stand. The people who taught us to love big or go home. The people who courageously, bravely, and selflessly made daily sacrifices because they thought more of their legacy and future generations, than of themselves.
Frank and I have been married for almost six years. We faced some difficult challenges together. We enjoyed some of the sweetest times. We argue and snuggle – often within the same 15 minutes.
Frank is an amazing husband. He is kind to me when I am upset. He is gentle, even when I am fiery. He is strong when I crumble. He is generously affectionate, even when I make myself busy to enjoy it. He is wise and seeks to be wiser. He is a great leader, yet he often just walks alongside me. He is my favorite person, my best friend, and my lover.
Six down, forty-four to go. I hope we leave the kind of legacy in the lives of our family and friends that would make God and the giants proud.
This much, always.