Sunday, January 4, 2009

Jean and Red

In the months following my divorce, I asked myself, “Do I really want to get married again?” The answer was always, “I don’t really know……” It’s not because I don’t believe in marriage (I do) - I’m just not sure that I was really “good” at it. I’m not sure if I want to “go there” again……

Then I remember Jean and Red…. Jean and Red were my grandparents. Red never met a stranger and Jean just loved everyone. As I kid, I can remember staying at the lake, following grandpa around talking to everyone in that entire campground. Red was a magnet for people. Jean would tell everyone to call her grandma - she would take in every problem child in the family for the summer… matter if they were the fifth cousin twice removed. She would cook for you…she would tell you stories…and when life got just too boring, she would turn up the radio…clap her hands….and make all the kids get up and dance with her. Jean and Red loved life.

On the weekends, we would go to their house….sleep on the couch, the floor, on cots, in beds….wherever we could find a place to lay our head. In the morning, we would wake to the sound and smell of bacon and coffee. Jean would have her apron on….cooking up a storm. Grandpa Red would walk by her and smack her bottom - she would fuss at him…all in a tizzy….and Red would exclaim adoringly, “that’s my bride!!” They were quite a pair - Jean and Red - full of joy, spontaneity, and love for their family.

They traveled together all over the country in their camper. It had a sign in the back window that read, “If this trailer is rockin’ don’t come knockin’ ” and I think they meant it, too!! I am sure their marriage was not perfect, but it is one I aspire to - a relationship where there is life and passion… and peace - a relationship where you dance a jig to bluegrass music one day….and sit for hours on the porch swing the next. A relationship where life is savored together…living on purpose….kissing under the oak tree when you are 60…..floating down the river on an inner tube…holding hands….smiling….laughing. A partnership of life.

When Red died, Jean missed him terribly. She developed Alzheimers. At sundown, she would start looking for Red to drive up the hill and come home to her. She would grow agitated that Red was late getting home and would become inconsolable……sometimes she would remember that he was not going to come home…..and sometimes she would just worry and ask every five minutes what time it was… A few years after Grandpa died, I came home to spend a week with her. It was the last time that I really spent time with my Grandma. While at her house, I found a letter she wrote to Red after he died….

My Dearest Darling Red,

I loved you most of all in the world. And now you are gone and my life is cold. My love for you still holds on and on. It cannot let go. If I did I would be gone, too. If only we could talk to one another, but my voice is as silent as yours. You are always beside me.

I don’t grieve as I should, but there is an empty space there always. You did not tell me how bad you were, but I knew it anyway. God showed me.

I can’t seem to do the things I should. People ask me to come see them. I can’t. I have to be at home. As if I’m waiting for you. But I know I’m not. You aren’t here anymore. You are in Arizona and that is far away.

I wear your shirt to bed so I might be close to you. But that doesn’t help. I can’t get my feet warm close to you anymore. It’s a very big bed.

Spring is here. It is more beautiful and the storm we expected to come this way went around us. Our grandkids are here, Amy and Holly. I sure enjoy them. They are my everyday sparkle.

How can I ever be me anymore without you? We’ve always been Red & Jean or Jean & Red. Now it is just Jean. No Red. Maybe soon I’ll get settled and be more myself, but for now I sure don’t know who I am.

Everyone is so helpful and understanding and loving, but me. I’m someone else. I don’t know who. I guess Jesus is the only one who knows me or who I am.

I think I will take the camper and go on the lake. Will you visit me there? No, I guess not. But I will think of you so much as I do now. Maybe the terrible hurt will go away and a beautiful memory will take its place. I pray so. With God’s help because it’s terrible to be lost by yourself with no hugs or kisses and no arms around you and you saying, “I love you.”

I love you, too.


Until I read this letter, I had no idea that my grandma wrote. Her beautiful candor moves me every time I read it. I know what it feels like to be lonely, but I was married 16 years, not 40 plus……our separation took time - hers happened in an instant. Theirs was a beautiful love story….an enduring love story…a story that grew to touch the lives of countless friends and family…..

So back to the question……..Do I want to get married??? Looking at Jean and Red’s love story gives me hope - gives me a dream……If I can find my very own Red, then yes I definitely do…..someday…..someday.

1 comment:

Rue said...

what an amazing story. thank you for sharing your life with us.