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Throwback Thursday: Love

I come from a family of couples who got together young and are still together some 30 years later—I blame my grandparents for this. My cousins and I grew up on the stories of how those two crazy kids met and fell in love at a rolling-skating rink, then later how my grandmother rode her bicycle from the city of Syracuse out to his family’s farm in Cicero in the ‘40s.

While both of my parents worked, I spent most afternoons of my childhood pawing through shoeboxes and photo albums full of black and white Polaroids of their life together. As I flipped through the albums, the photos started to become more crowded. What started with one handsome, lean Polish boy arm in arm with one young French Canadian girl, quickly grew into a family and children of their own.

They had their separate lives—his spent working out on his hay farm or tinkering with antiques at auctions, hers off at casino bingo or beating me at Scrabble at the kitchen table—but at the end of the day, they could always be found together. They stood next to each other at every grandchild’s birthday party down the road and sat together at all of the family cookouts in the back field. She would host summer days at their pool while he gave us the rides of our lives on his beat-up old golf cart. There was never a problem I encountered growing up that couldn’t be solved with a molasses cookie and a glass of Ovaltine with Grandma.

In 2004, I watched that aged Polish man fall apart as his deteriorating French Canadian sweetheart lost her battle with leukemia, after spending 58 years by his side. Their once fresh-smelling farmhouse turned into a shrine of not only his beloved Mary, but of the life and legacy they created together: the five children, the twelve grandchildren, the one great-grandson. It was in that moment that I understood what true love looked like, felt like. It was in that moment that I knew that I absolutely had to find someone to have that with.