My paternal grandparents were born in 1920. They met in 1938 during their very first week as freshmen at American International College in Springfield, MA, went dutch to a movie on a Saturday night, and have been together ever since. (For the liberal arts majors in our readership, that's 75 years.) They were married July 1, 1944, and after my grandfather finished a stint in the Navy during World War II, they settled in the Boston suburb of Winchester, MA.
They raised three children in that quintessential New England town, rearing them on a steady diet of puritan stoicism, stubborn notions of right and wrong, Red Sox baseball, and love. Especially love. They survived two of those three kids, something I can't imagine.
|Dr. Seymour Russell, DDS, practiced here from 1946 - 1984.|
They retired to a 90-acre farm in New Hampshire that he'd renovated over the years and then to a smaller house once the farm's remote locale began to be a concern for a pair of 80 year-olds. Finally, they moved back to Winchester to be near family.
I'd make trips to see them from time to time - they met their great-granddaughter on Cape Cod when she was less than a year old, and we made it a practice to visit their apartment on all our trips to the Cape thereafter. My sister and I traveled to New Hampshire in 2005 when we were convinced that my grandfather was near death. The Red Sox were a part of that trip, too. He pulled through then, and most of us are convinced that he simply wasn't willing to leave her alone.
She fell last March, injuring her hip and elbow. She'd been increasingly slowed by age, her back bowed and her neck muscles no longer able to keep her head up for more than a few seconds at a time. But this time, the doctors made her go to a convalescent center, despite his protestations (and they are many - he's the last of the great New England conservatives). She's been in a bed ever since.
And so I didn't know what to expect this afternoon when I knocked off work and went to her nursing home. He was already there when I walked in, and was expecting me - I thought it best not to surprise a pair of 92 year-olds. But she didn't know I was coming, and the way her face lit up will stay with me forever.
"She still has the greatest smile," he said when she took my hand and beamed at me. "She's still beautiful."
I spent the better part of the afternoon with them. We turned the Red Sox/Yankees Opening Day game on the television and watched the last six innings. Some of the time, she was completely aware of the game situations. At others, she rooted for the Sox to get out, thinking they were the Yankees. There were moments when she thought I was her late son, my father (and she can be forgiven that, as we look too alike for my own comfort - my soul patch is a late, futile attempt to create some distance) and others when she struggled to remember the names of other relatives. She was frail, and distracted, and almost completely deaf. But her eyes were bright, and her smile quick, and her mind inquisitive.
|Jackie Bradley, Jr. made his major league debut|
Throughout the afternoon, we watched the Red Sox game. We talked about Jackie Bradley, the Sox' rookie outfielder, and Dustin Pedroia, her favorite and mine. We lamented the Bobby Valentine era, and we laughed at Kevin Youkilis in pinstripes. Mostly, we rooted for the Sox. And when the final out was recorded, and the Sox won, 8-2, I kissed her on the forehead and told her I loved her. She told me how proud she was of me, and I whispered, "I'm very lucky".
I'm very, very lucky.