Serafina and I attended a memorial service today for the woman who took care of me when I was an infant. Affectionately referred to as Grandma Rica (though of no familial relation), she passed away on Sunday at the age of 89. I’ve only been to a few memorial services in my life and though this one was a Catholic service meaning I was a bit behind on the liturgical responses and the kneeling/standing/sitting/etc, it was lovely and a fun time to remember her.
Grandma Rica and Grandpa Grecco lived across the street and down a few houses from where my mom’s parents lived and raised their kids. My aunt went to high school with their youngest daughter and my grandmother had a lot in common with Grandma Rica because they were both R.N.s. When my mom went back to work soon after I was born, my folks asked Grandma Rica if she would watch me. So for the first few years of my life, I spent Monday through Friday with my adoptive Italian grandmother. I grew up listening to songs in Italian, smelling the beautiful scents of homemade lasagna and pizelles, and getting the wonderful care of a doting grandmother whose grandbabies were a few states away.
Yes, it was great to watch my grandpa reconnect with folks he hadn’t seen in awhile as well as see my mom chat with women she had grown up with but had since lost touch. But the best part was listening to the stories her children told about their parents.
You see, even though their dad, Rica’s husband, passed away back in 1994, the memories they shared today were not just about Grandma Rica but about them as a couple. In their minds, they were a couple rather than two people who were married (for 49 years!). Regardless of the fact that their memories of their mother for the last 18 years were without their father, it was their marriage that stuck out most in their mind.
Hence the title of this blog post…let me tell you a story that was shared today.
Back in the early ’60s, Grandpa Grecco was serving as a sergeant in the Air Force on a base down in Arizona. Grandpa Grecco, Grandma Rica, and their three kids were living on base. Grandpa wasn’t a big drinker but was fond of a cold beer after a hot day of work. He and a neighbor decided they would brew their own beer and Grandma, being a nurse with knowledge of chemistry, doubted their recipe, let her qualms be known, and stepped out of the way to let them do their thing. A few days after brewing and bottling, they heard gunshots coming from the carport (where the brewing, bottling, and now storing had occurred) while they sat down to eat dinner. Grandpa – in his old, faded fatigues and a white undershirt – was the first up from the dinner table to check out the commotion. He stumbled up on bottles blowing their tops and yeasty, stinky beer spilled all over the place.
The way his son recounted the story today, his dad (Grandpa Grecco) sat down on the stair and put his head in his hand. Grandma Grecco – in the sundress she had worn to work that day – came in after the kids ran to see the spectacle. After she saw the mess – and Grandpa’s head in his hands in defeat – she disappeared back into the house. A few seconds later, she showed up with a cold beer. See, she had stopped at the commissary on her way home from her nursing job and had bought a 6 pack knowing that Grandpa’s beer experiment wasn’t going to go very well. But instead of saying “I told you so” or being angry that the garage was now a mess, she sat down next to him, put her arm around him, and handed him the cold beer saying, “We can try it again.”
This picture of a husband and wife going through life together supporting one another through silly things like this and more important things like raising their kids to be responsible citizens (another thing they talked about today) touched my heart. Hearing how her kids talked about her while looking down at my own daughter sleeping in my arms, I couldn’t help but think about my own memorial service however many years down the road. I hope so much that my kid(s) and family members have just as lovely memories of our marriage.
Marriage really is a ministry. To your spouse, to your children, to your community. I got to hear about that today from her friends and family and I want to [continue to] work hard to keep making our marriage something that people will want to talk about long after Ben and I have passed away. How do we do that? Simple (ha!): keep Christ at the center of our marriage so that His love can flow through us to each other, our children, and our community. I have great examples in my life: both sets of grandparents, my parents, and Ben’s parents to name a few. But also the couples that are less “seasoned” aka closer in age to us. We’ve been married just over 4 years…here’s to making many more memories like a wife knowing just what her husband needed at the end of a long day.