They were married a long time. Sixty-seven years to be exact.
My friend’s daddy had a voice like a tuba, and a drawl as thick as sorghum syrup. The man was as tall as a pine, and about as skinny, too.
When he met her, she was an eighteen-year-old, non-English-speaking Mexican. His daddy: just out of the Army—without any idea of what he wanted in life.
Fate happened on the day my friend’s father saw some hoodlums harassing a Mexican girl and her two young sisters, outside a cafe in Atlanta. The men made horrible gestures toward the girls. My friend’s father intervened and got his hindparts whooped. The fight broke his ribs, but he claimed the girl’s brown eyes were worth it.
Theirs was an ill-conceived relationship. Not only did both families oppose the marriage. But neither of the lovebirds spoke the other’s language. They were as different as it got.
So, they eloped.
Eventually, they learned how to speak to one another. It took years of practice. Whenever they’d visit her family, his daddy tried his best to speak a fragmented Spanish.
According to my friend, his childhood home was a loving one—with good chicharrones.
In his mother’s elderly years, she came down with headaches. Bad ones. My friend said the torment would linger for days. He said his daddy would lay beside her on the bed in a dark room. And, since small noises pained her, his father would just listen to her breathe, his ear against her chest.
“My parents were in love,” my friend says. “I used to think everyone’s parents were like that. But I know that’s not how it goes .
“When my mama got sick,it was like someone was killing Daddy from the inside out. That’s when his Parkinson’s got real bad.”
My friend’s mother suffered so long that when she passed it was a blessing. But his father wasn’t the same afterward. In fact, he was so affected, he wouldn’t even speak about his late wife. To him, it felt profane to use her name.
But it didn’t matter. As it turned out, his daddy would only live two hundred days after his mother’s funeral.
And when the old man finally left this world, they say he smiled, saying, “Today is the day I get to see my Gabriella.”
Then he mumbled something in broken Spanish, and his eyes rolled back into his head.
Anyway, maybe you don’t believe in real love. After all, a lot of people don’t. Some folks think the idea of this kind of love is just a well-thought-up myth, suited more for fairytales than daily life.
Those people are wrong.