My grandmother and grandfather had been married “forever,” at least that’s what grandma used to say. When asked, grandpa would always defer to grandma, saying “your grandma takes care of those things.” I visited them often during my childhood and they were always very caring and considerate of each other. Don’t get me wrong, they could get into some heavy verbal altercations, when they disagreed, and they both had some strong opinions on certain subjects. But when the fracas was finished, they would make up and the whole thing would pass.
As I grew up, I came to appreciate how they always said thank you to each other and how one would inquire whether or not the other needed or wanted something. They were always considerate of each other, but they always spoke their mind. As an adult and in and out of several relationships, I saw first hand how niceties could quickly disappear in a relationship and how holding back on feelings and opinions only served to delay the inevitable.
After one particularly nasty breakup, on a cold rainy February day, I was sitting at the window, watching the rain and thinking about my grandparents-envying them. They were quite old now, but still a loving couple. They still held hands when they went for a walk and they credited their personal relationship for their longevity.
When I glanced at the calendar, I was reminded that Valentine’s Day was the following week. I felt a bit depressed that I would most likely be spending this Valentine’s Day alone-again. As my thoughts strayed back to my grandparents, I was reminded of their old memory album. It was filled with memorabilia like letters, photos, Valentine and Birthday cards-things they gave or sent to each other in the early years of their “courting.” I remembered that at the very beginning of the album was a broken record, all the pieces glued to the page. The caption on the page read “The Day We Met.”
Feeling inspired and looking for something to distract me from my own misery, I got out the phone book and starting calling retailers, who specialized in old recordings. After about an hour of calling around and getting referred from here to there, I found someone who had a copy of the broken record and was willing to part with it. We haggled over the price for a bit, but the guy knew I wanted it and he made me pay dearly. I picked up the record the next day, packed it carefully and mailed it to my grandparents along with a Valentine card and a note.
My grandparents called when it arrived, thanked me for it, and we talked for a bit about family and the weather. A couple weeks later I met my mother for lunch in town. Feeling particularly proud of myself for my thoughtful gift to my grandparents, I gloated about it to her. Her hysterical laughter was not the reaction I expected. When her laughter finally subsided, I asked for an explanation. It became apparent that I should have asked about the broken record and not made assumptions.
The story of my grandparents meeting went like this: They were at the party of a mutual friend. They had never met before, my grandfather having been overseas for two years. When the record in question was placed on the record player, my grandmother went out onto the porch. Soon after, my grandfather stepped out onto the porch and he and my grandmother struck up a conversation. They were a couple from that moment on. It seems neither of them liked the record and that was why they stepped outside. When they were married, they smashed the record as a “seal on the deal” and vowed to always be honest with each other about their feelings.
Despite the fact that I felt foolish, especially since my grandparents never said a word, the story was a good one and I began to apply the “honesty is the best policy” adage to my relationships from that point forward. I was married two years later. My grandparents included the record-intact-with their very generous wedding gift. My new husband and I played it, then promptly broke it and pasted it into our memory album. We must have similar tastes. We didn’t like it either.