In the Spring of 1989, Cherry and I were renting a floor in a house situated on the Hartford/West Hartford line. While we were planning our September wedding, my ‘snowbird’ grandparents, Herb and Betty, were returning to Essex from Fort Lauderdale.
Shortly after their return, my grandmother, was hospitalized with a heart condition related to a childhood bout of Scarlet fever.
As I sat beside Gramma in the hospital, she was served a ‘low salt’ meal. She wouldn’t eat it. She tried a little bit and spit it out saying that, without salt, it was tasteless. I noticed that the staff had mistakenly left a packet of salt tucked under her plate. Concerned that Gramma would find and use the salt to the detriment of her health, I slipped the salt packet into my pocket.
The next morning, I received a call that my grandmother had passed away. My penpal that had lived through the times of the Spanish Flu pandemic, the Great Depression and two World Wars was gone. To this day, I still have her letters and regrets that I hadn’t sprinkled salt all over one of her last meals.
A few weeks later, my family surprised me with a 30th birthday party. I spent much of that party playing horseshoes with my grandfather. As usual, he puffed on a cigar and tried to psych me out by blowing smoke towards me and talking smack. It was one the best days of my life.
Shortly thereafter, my grandfather and I spent the day in Essex. We walked around the marina where he still sold boats at 83 years of age. We grabbed lunch in one of his favorite restaurants where Herb was a bit of a local icon.
Afterwards, we went to his home to watch his beloved Yankees beat up on my Orioles. He sat in his favorite chair and I sat in my grandmother’s. He told stories and poked fun at my team’s dismal play as he smoked his pipe and munched on peanuts.
When the game ended, he asked whether I could stay the night. Since it was a Sunday night and Cherry was alone, I told him that, unfortunately, I couldn’t.
The next day at work, I received a call that my grandfather had died overnight. My father had gone to see him and found him still sitting in his favorite chair.
Cherry and I were married that September. I’d imagined that amazing day would include my grandparents. I’d hoped to celebrate with them and to make them proud. Life is like that. Your dreams don’t always come true, but you can learn from them and I did.
My grandparents were married for over 60 years, but my grandfather, Herb, only survived a couple months without his lifelong companion, Betty. It was often said that he died from a broken heart. I believe that to be true.
These days, I will sometimes find myself thinking about where I’d be without Cherry. Would I be able to exist without someone who was done so much for me, does so much for me and means so much to me?
Those of you that know Cherry are aware of what a kind and generous soul she is. Imagine how lucky I am to have had her walk into my life 35 years ago.
Happy anniversary and thank you CherBear. Love you to the moon and back.