Spotlight

Grandparents and Their Vision of Love

Image Credit: Coralie Desindes

Featured Image Credit: @desindes.desindes on Instagram.

It can be very easy to forget that the older members of our family had a life before us; wrapped up in our own worlds where our grandparents are just that: grandparents. Six writers share beautiful tales from their grandparents’ own stories, reminding us the universality of love, loss and heartbreak.

John and Alice

The McBrides– Image courtesy of Hope Docherty

My Grandparents, John and Alice McBride, were married for 51 years. John will be turning 79 this year and Alice would have been 75. They met in their hometown of Coatbridge, Scotland. I had asked my Grandad what had attracted him to my Gran, expecting him to compliment her generically, though he never did. He spoke of the way she carried herself, “she was just a nice person I wanted to know”. Each Christmas my Grandad would describe the exact outfit my Gran wore on their first date; they went to watch ‘Elvis Presley- Love me Tender’. To my Gran’s dismay he would also describe a date a year into their relationship where she had drunk too much and had dropped her false teeth down the toilet in the bar they were in…

I admired the realness of their relationship more than anything; my Gran’s clumsiness that he adored. My Grandad described their relationship had ups and downs just like everyone else but he reassured me; “we just loved one another”. He advised couples must “be kind to one another”. He kept repeating to me “we had a good life together”, which I know they did. They moved from Scotland to England to set up a life together, having 3 children and 4 grandchildren. My Grandad is such a strong man, though he was never the same after she passed away. I think her grave brings him great comfort and he has told me when he visits that he asks her the usual things he normally would have, like how would she like her coffee. He is such a humble man though his heart-break is shown in his refusal to throw away her toiletries although they will not be used again. Everything gets easier with time though nobody could replace her in his eyes. I can only dream of having a love as pure as theirs, I would accept nothing less.

By Hope Docherty

The McBrides– Image courtesy of Hope Docherty

Lidia

I love seeing an old couple strolling down the sidewalk, walking arm in arm or holding hands. It makes me wish it will be me one day. Then I realise why it makes my heart melt so much. It is because it is not the “normal” for me but a magical somewhat unachievable goal because there is nobody in my family yet that has lead such a happy “cute elderly couple” life. My parents are too young for that and my grandparents? They are as far from that picture as it gets. But it does not mean that I have nothing to learn from them.

I was sat alone with my grandma in a cafe somewhere in Prague few years ago when she told me the history of her marriage to my grandfather who I know as a person who loves me more than anything in this world. She told me that she never wanted to get married but she really wanted to have a child. However, in the late 1960s – a decade before the hippie culture visited Poland, in a tiny village life was not easy for unmarried women with children. So my great grandmother, 93 this year, wanted to protect her oldest daughter from this disgrace and somewhat forced her to marry a well-suited policeman – my grandfather. It gave my grandmother what she wanted but it never help her live an easy life as the relationship got progressively more turbulent, harder on the mental health of both of them. However, as the rules of the society got more liberal – she could have gotten a divorce. She has never done but thinks about it every day.

And this is what I have learnt from the story she told me in a café where Kafka used to write his prose – your life is yours. Your body is your choice. Your relationship status is entirely up to you and being single is way better than a life alongside someone who makes you unhappy. No matter who you love or do not love, do not let people decide your faith cause life in which you feel like you cannot be yourself, in which you cannot love yourself and your partner is miserable. Who cares what anybody else has to say on that.

By Maja Metera

Glenys and Anthony

Married for nearly 60 years, I’ve always believed my grandparents had the strongest and most loving relationship ever. My grandma fondly reminisces back to the time she was 14 and thinking my 16-year-old grandad was cocky and unlikeable. Three years later, when set up by a friend, she clearly changed her mind… Married at 21 and 23 they left their hometown to start their new life together. My Grandad’s job at the MOD took them all over the UK, from Kent, to Scotland, to Portsmouth, before finally settling in Bath. 

I asked them how they managed to sustain their loving relationship for so many years and they both agreed that their mutual easy-going nature and similar attitudes kept them going. With a reciprocal love to travel, they explored the world together, trusting each other as they grew closer and closer. For a healthy relationship, they believe it’s important to know when and when not to argue. Why argue about something unimportant and petty? It will only result in upset and destruction of their happiness. 

Their advice for a long lasting and happy relationship is to both make compromises and make sure that there is an equal level of give and take. In a relationship, you must respect each other’s views and if there’s something you disagree on, leave it be!

By Sasha Nugara

The Butchers– image courtesy of Sasha Nugara

Gracinda and Antonio

My maternal grandparents, Gracinda and Antonio, have always been a nurturing presence in my life, ever since my sister and I were born. Due to our proximity, I already knew, more or less, the story of how they had come to meet, but this provided me with an opportunity to get to know their story in more depth. 

Born in the same southern Portuguese district, Portalegre, my maternal grandparents met in their adolescence. My grandfather, then 17-years old and employed as a locksmith, started noticing my grandmother, who passed by his house on her way to work as a seamstress at the age of 15, and invited her to talk, drawn initially, he says, to her freckled face.  They began dating shortly after, ensuing a 9-year long courtship that lasted through my grandfather’s time as a Sergeant abroad in Angola, during the Portuguese Colonial War. Communication was limited in these times, confined to aerograms sent back and forth. They married eight months after my grandfather returned, and my mother popped up 2 years later. 

My grandfather’s work moved him nearer to the capital, and after moving there, my grandmother and mother followed shortly. It made me think about how they went through so much, whether it was my grandfather’s time during the war, or moving to an entirely different city; this is perhaps why when I asked them to define love, they stressed communication and understanding. 

Now 76 and 77 respectively, and married for 53, they consider their marriage a happy and understanding one, and have some advice for younger couples: to talk through their problems as a team.

By Catarina Vicente

Alistair and Liz

Image Courtesy of Sophia Grace

My Grandma was previously married before she met my Pops. She told me that she felt that she rushed into her first marriage, things didn’t work out which is okay, we are allowed to change our minds and we shouldn’t rush things. 

When she met my Pops she felt a different kind of love and happiness and now they have been married for 50 years. When I asked my Grandma how she perceived love she told me-

 ‘When you first meet someone you might just chat, then you begin to feel in-tune’

‘Love is being kind, caring about someone else how you would care for yourself’

The advice she had for our generation is not to be in a hurry, enjoy your life. 

My Grandma taught me that love isn’t always like the movies, there are hurdles and things aren’t always smooth but life is meant to be enjoyed, enjoy your friends. Love can happen when you least expect it but don’t expect things to be perfect, but remember why you fell in love with that person in the first place. Every relationship teaches you something new.

By Sophia Grace

Jacqui and Jon

Jacqui and Jon– Image Courtesy of Molly Govus

On the 5th May 2021, my Grandparents will have been together for 48 years. My Grandpa was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and my Grandma in Bengaluru, India but they both met when they were only-just adults in Southend-on-Sea. 

My Grandpa used to be a bus driver when he was in his early 20’s, and my Grandma was finishing high school, so they met initially from Grandpa driving her home from school on the bus. I remember him telling me that he always aimed to make her smile on the journey, but then my Grandma left high school and he didn’t think he’d see her again. 5 years later, my Grandpa went to a party and who was also there…the girl from the bus, my Grandma! The rest is history, and he has succeeded in making her smile every day since. 

My Grandparents are now 67 and 72. My Grandpa’s best relationship advice is to be ready to compromise and to be persistent in your relationship. He also said that it’s important to not place too much power into the rows you have as a couple. My Grandma said similar; she said to expect lots of trial and error and to find someone you can agree to disagree with. One thing my Grandpa said that stuck with me in the conversation is: love, it exists, and it cannot be changed. I like the way he puts it – once love is in the equation, everything else is kind of irrelevant. 

Three children and six grandchildren later, it is safe to say that Jacqui and Jon are the most iconic pair of our family, and I would definitely take their advice any day. 

By Molly Govus


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