07 December 2009

Pearl Harbor and a love story

My paternal grandmother and grandfather got married on Pearl Harbor Day. Of course, they were married years before 1941, so they didn’t know the significance of this particular wedding date at the time.

My grandmother died two years ago and my grandfather died almost 25 years ago. It’s hard to believe that so much time has gone by. I visited her about six months before her death and asked her to tell me stories about her life as a young wife and mother. Stories I had never known before.

She met my grandfather through school and church. He was from a family of German immigrants; they were dairy farmers and had a large family. Grandma said that since there were so many kids, their parents tried to keep them occupied with games. She said she liked go to visit after church on Sundays; the whole family would be occupied with a game of badminton or croquet or a checkers tournament.

There wasn’t much fanfare around their engagement or wedding. It was during the Great Depression. She said they decided to get married and went down to the courthouse.

My father was born prematurely. It was her first child. Her beloved sister was visiting, but had taken the family car into town to visit a friend who, coincidentally, happened to be in the hospital. Grandma said that she had awoken that day with some lower back pain, but never in a million years thought that her baby would arrive early. But he did. A neighbor sent for the doctor and Grandma gave birth at home.

Seven years after my father was born, the horrifying attack on Pearl Harbor diminished their wedding anniversary celebration. After that, work was hard to find for my grandpa. He eventually moved the family to San Diego because a cousin suggested that he could get a job as a contractor in a Navy ship yard. They stayed in California for several years, but my grandpa’s allergies became so aggravated on the west coast that he decided to take his chances with dairy farming again, in order to move back to the Midwest, where the climate was easier for him.

The family stayed in Kansas, thankfully, because that is where my dad met my mom years later. Right in her small hometown. I know the railroad tracks where my dad took the shortcut to walk those two blocks over to her house from his. They undoubtedly took a stroll or two along those tracks themselves as they were falling in love.

Amid the legacy of Pearl Harbor is a sweet love story that proved crucial to my branch of the family tree. So, here’s to you, grandma and grandpa, happy anniversary. I love you.