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This Valentine’s Day I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted to look at a special couple who has been married 67 years – my grandparents. There is a wonderful story surrounding their marriage and I want to share that with you today.
My grandfather, Neville, was only two years old when he got very very sick. He lived in Newfoundland, a province of Canada and he and his father had drank some water that made them both very sick. His father died at the young age of 28 from the water, and my grandfather continued to be very ill. He had 3 illnesses at the same time from the dirty water- scartlett fever and typhoid were two of them. He almost died, but instead he lost his hearing due to the damage to his ears from the illnesses. They said it was a miracle he was even alive.
His mother, with her husband dead and her toddler son now deaf- heard from friends about Boston in the United States and the medical advances there. She thought if she could get there that maybe they could help my grandfather hear again. She traveled with her son by herself all the way to Boston from Newfoundland. This was in the 1920’s. There were no planes.
When she arrived in Boston she found that there was no way they could help my grandfather because the condition of his ears were too bad. She decided to stay and get a job. She eventually got re-married and when my grandfather was older she put him in a school for the deaf in Boston. That is where he met my grandmother, Claire, who was also deaf. She had been born deaf after her mother had contracted German measles during her pregnancy. My grandparents were together one year before they got married in 1945. They had two girls: my Aunt Olivia and my mother.
My grandfather now 93 and my grandmother now 91 are two of the dearest, sweetest people you will ever meet. They live in Florida across the street from my mom so she can help them. For this interview, I sent my brother some questions and asked if he could write down the answers and send them to me. He interviewed my grandmother and the answers are from her perspective. The answers are short and sweet, but something I think we all can learn from!
How did you both meet?
“In a class at school. Boys and girls were separate back then.”
How did Grandpa propose?
“He asked me to go with him to Maine. It was at Old Orchard Beach.”
How long were you both together before you got married?
How did you know he was the “one”?
When I went to Maine with him I realized he was the right man. It was in his eyes.
What was the hardest year of marriage for you?
“When our first baby was born, because it was a new experience.”
What are the main things that changed between the first and the fiftieth year (and beyond)?
“We didn’t get along as much anymore because we were raising children. It was hard for us.”
Looking back, is there anything you would change or do differently in your marriage?
“I think we would try to change the first problems we had and work to make them better.”
What qualities do you have that has helped keep your marriage strong?
What people, things, or other outside influences have helped keep your marriage strong?
“Your grandfather not wanting to be like his step-father. His step-father was abusive to him and hating the abuse made him want to a better husband and father. Also, having the support of good parents and a good family helped a lot.”
What is the one thing you feel has kept you together all these years?
“Having children and a family and having good, supportive friends.”
I asked my mom to fill in a little bit more about my grandparents- her parents and this is what she said:
What was it like growing up in a home with deaf parents?
“It was a more challenging childhood in that my sister and I were depended on to speak for them and to be their ears out in public or to even make phone call for them. But they provided for us. My father worked 3 jobs to provide. He had a full-time job spray painting electric equipment, and at nights he cleaned offices. On the weekends he worked at the church as janitor. He did that my whole childhood. My mother worked part-time too when we were older.
They had a lot of deaf friends and attended a church preached by a deaf pastor. When he passed away, they would take my sister and I to church every Sunday even though they could not hear the sermon. They were determined that their daughters be in church.”
What do you remember about their marriage?
I do not remember them showing each other love. Back then, those kinds of things were not shown in public or in front of your children. From what I recall they slept in separate beds their whole marriage. My grandmother had told my mom that it would be better their marriage and that they would sleep better!
Even though they did not show a lot of love to each other growing up, they still buy each other cards and gifts all the time. They can’t get around much, so my father will still sometimes ask me to go pick up a card or gift for my mom.”