My Grandmother's Engagements

I lived in a family that shared one bed. Not that we didnt all have our own rooms, filled with stuffed animals, flower print dresses and Laura Ashley wall paper and bed sheets. At night, it would seem all of the above was just for show. 

This went on until I was forced into a life of dormitory living with the on set of my first year of college. Throughout high school and still the summer up until my move out, my mother, sister and I sleep, as three spoons, in one bed. There were times, times when my boyfriend at the time would spend the night, while lying to his parents that he was at so-and-so’s house, my bed would get some use. But that was few and far between. 

We went through the same routine when my sister and I slept at my grandparents house. Only this time, there was four of us, their bed was king sized, and hard as a rock. Just the way my grandpa liked it. He would always fall asleep early, a deep sleeper, he would just lay there, facing the window, (whatever direction the open window was, he would naturally orient himself on his side1) while my grandmother told us stories.

Currently, I am 27, just turned it actually, last month I went home to the twin cities, and spent the night there. I asked my grandmother again to tell the story of how she and my grandfather met. There were other narratives that my grandmother would tell. At times she would mix it up, she could mix it up, if I had asked her to.

The details of this story have never been disputed. Nor have they been confirmed by an outside party. My grandmother was engaged to three men at the same time. Richard, Dick, and Cliff. All when she was 20 years of age.

How she met the first two gentlemen is foggy in my memory. She might have met Richard, the red-headed, hot tempered moma’s boy in high school. And Dick could have been introduced to her by her mother’s friend Elsa. 

Known “Facts” about Richard and Dick:

-They were both over six feet tall, which according to my grandmother it was like they were giants of their age. Tall men usually have big hands, she liked men with large hands. She felt safe with men that could cradle her delicate fingers within theirs. 

-Richard drove some sort of fancy car. 

-Dick gave my grandmother his mother’s engagement ring. 

-They both went on to lead very successful, wealthy lives. One might have been a doctor, the other an inventor.

-Both married women who were not my grandmother.

There was always an issue of scheduling, my grandmother would recall. She would continuesly feed them lines such as, “Sorry, Dick I can’t go out tonight, I am washing my hair.” No joke. She had my great-grandmother lie on the phone for her, “Helen-Jo cannot go out tonight, she has been taken ill,” etc. My grandmother held within her head a host of excuses for not going out. Excuses like hooks, that made the fishermen hold on to the line, without giving up.

As she was engaged to both Richard and Dick, a friend of her mother’s asked if she would be willing to go on a date with her son. For some reason, my grandmother was game. She took the bait, and that he how she met Cliff. 

Somehow she folded him into her carefully knitted schedule. On their first date, they saw a movie. My grandfather was alot of things, but he never was tall. At his high point he said claims his height just hit 5’4”. This was something that mattered to my grandmother. While sitting aquardly in the theater, my grandfather grabbed her hand, and all she could think about was how small his hand was compared to both Richard and Dick. 

Cliff must have been a looker. I have the right, I think, to assume this. Because my grandmother never really will let go of the reason why she, in the end, chose to go with him over the other two. Cliff was ten years older than she was. A military man, working as a journalist at the time. He was raised in the depression, and I am told he was a bit of a stickler when it came to spending money.

My grandmother was used to the finer things in life. She was the only child raised by parents who, lucky enough, had the means to delight her with objects, fine dresses, and education. Her father died when she was 16 in WWI, leaving my great-grandmother and her a comfortable living. I picture the two girls going out on the town together, cooking together, and working on homework together. My great-grandfather was a physicist, and wished for my grandmother to go into science. In the end, she was just a few credits shy of her doctorate when she left school. 

They were, they were an unlikely pair. But I am not sure why, a few months before my grandfather was shipped off to war, my grandmother decided to choose him. She never did take his name, until after her education was finished.