I’ve never been very close to my maternal grandmother. Perhaps I could have tried harder, but it was hard for me to love and appreciate the stern German, Lutheran woman that she was when she only ever pointed out things I did inadequately. But as I’ve gotten older, I have learned to appreciate her as a woman, with a life full of experiences long before I ever existed. I’ve learned a small smattering of biographical accounts, and the most enjoyable to hear was the story of how she met my grandfather.
In 1930s-1940s Maryland, my ancestors were farming businessmen and politicians. My maternal great-grandfather was one of the largest poultry producers in the state. He had some sort of arrangement with a Maryland politician named Rieck. They threw a gathering, adjoining the two families for dinner. My grandmother, Jean, was 12 years old at the time. She met two of Rieck’s sons, the younger named Carl. The two boys tussled and fought to see who would accompany Jean on the tandem bicycle. Carl, even though he was the youngest, popped his brother in the face and won the honor, but he was punished for it later on.
Some years later, the two families had gone on in their own ways and Jean had secured a teaching position at a small high school. Carl caught wind of what Jean was up to from an old family friend. So one night, Jean was supervising a school dance. Carl decided to drive over 100 miles to visit her, but to do so he needed the aid of alcohol. He showed up at the high school dance, drunk. He would not leave until Jean agreed to a date with him. She reluctantly agreed. A few months later, and against the families’ wishes, Jean and Carl were married. After more than 40 years of marriage and six children, Jean had to bid farewell to the boy who fought to ride with her on the bicycle. I would never peg my “Meemom” as a romantic, but her commitment to the grandfather I never had the chance to know is nothing short of inspiring. I’ll leave you with:
“Life without love is meaningless and goodness without love is impossible.”