I grew up knowing nothing and everything about love. My parents had a great story about the way they met. It was cute and funny and surely a vehicle for Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan to star in had it been made into a film. Mom was young and working at the front desk of The Lord Baltimore Hotel. Dad had just recently graduated from the police academy. He’d spent a few summers working as a bell hop at The Lord Baltimore and occasionally dropped by to catchup with friends. On one visit a friend persuaded him to pretend he was going to arrest the new girl working at the desk. Dad’s friend liked the new girl and thought this was a good way to meet her. Dad, always game for making someone feel uncomfortable, proceeded to play along. Things didn’t go as planned for the friend, but went rather well for Dad. Several months later my parents were married.
I loved when Mom told this story. Dad never said anything, he only nodded or agreed with Mom’s version. Neither my mom or dad were big talkers. In fact they seemed to ration their words as if they only had a certain amount to spare each day. While my parents spent the majority of their time in our second floor apartment in silence, my grandparents were bickering on the first floor. I should say Nana was bickering, Pop-Pop was only muttering under his breath. But he did exactly what she said. We all did. As a child, I could never understand why Nana seemed angry with Pop-Pop. To this day, no one can convince me he wasn’t the most wonderful man to walk this Earth. How could she not see this?
Nana and Pop-Pop, or Fan and Lou as they were called, had been friends since their teenage years. They were so close that many believed they would one day marry. Before Lou could propose, Fan met a young widower and married him after a short courtship. Within the year Lou also married. Lou’s marriage ended in divorce and Fan’s happiness was also short lived. After my dad was born, his father died eighteen months later. Fan was widowed at the age of thirty four. She and Lou had remained part of the same crowd. Lou was the best friend of Fan’s brother. When Dad was nearly eight, Fan and Lou finally married.
Nana and Pop-Pop did everything together. They went out every Friday night to Miss Leona’s bar to listen to music and play games. On Sunday it was over to Bissert’s for dinner. All the while my parents sat upstairs, each in their own world. I never heard a cross word pass between them, but I rarely heard any words. They were friend with other police couples, but rarely socialized. As an adult I realize it wasn’t because they were naturally shy, it was because they had nothing to say to one another.
I was in grade school when my Pop-Pop died from cancer. Nana was sitting at her kitchen table looking through the paper. “I’ve lost my best friend,” she said. “Me, too.” I agreed. My parents could never seem to live up to their story. It seemed impossible to me that these two beautiful people were not destined to have a happy ever after. Though Nana and Pop-Pop’s story was not one of a great romance, their solid friendship stood firm.
Years later, as Nana suffered dementia, she would tell me about her visits with Pop-Pop. “You just missed him,” she would tell me and I would look around convinced she was right and he had been here only moments ago. They both passed away in the month of February, he on the twelfth and she on the fourteenth, nearly twenty years apart.
As we celebrate love this month we should also celebrate friendship. Crushes and romances may come and go, but it is that sturdy foundation of friendship that keeps us stable and moving forward to our next great love.