I have known my husband most of my life. We met as elementary school kids at the church our families attended. While I have known Justin for over twenty years, I have known his grandparents even longer. Justin’s grandfather, Mr. Guy (this is what every person who was ever a three year old at our church has EVER called him), was my preschool Sunday school teacher and as I got older I knew him as a friend of my grandfather. Recently, I have realized that I never fully understood the depth of their friendship until I listened to his eulogy, from my pew at my grandpa’s funeral in 2001.
I was fifteen when my grandpa died. Just old enough to remember him and his personality, but still young enough that I know I missed out on knowing him as an adult, when I would appreciate his life and our family history. There is a lot that I wish he would have been here for, particularly to see my relationship, and then marriage to Justin develop. I never got the opportunity to see how he would have reacted to me dating his best friend’s grandson. Undoubtedly, it would have included a sarcastic comment about how crazy Iowans are and that it wasn’t too late to run. Even though I sometimes feel cheated that I was not able to share that part of my life with him, I consider myself lucky to be a part of his best friend’s family. Since I have been with Justin, his grandfather has made a point to tell me stories about my grandpa, things that I would have no reason to otherwise know. Most special to me are the funny stories about trips they took together, the pranks they pulled on each other and the bond that these two couples shared. I’ve never told him, or anyone for that matter, but those stories are really important to me.
This past weekend I tagged along on my in-law’s trek to Iowa to attend Mr. Guy’s family reunion. This is an event that happens every four years and centers around Justin’s grandfather’s generation. Families are gathered for a day of food, fun, laughs, stories and love. For our little pack it also included a tour of Milo, Iowa. We toured the neighborhood where he grew up, the cemetery where several branches of his family tree were laid to rest and the other highlights of his childhood hometown. I have never seen anything like small town Iowa. It blew me away. Even more astounding was how lucky I felt to be able to connect with the past of someone who knew my grandfather so well. I will never be able to hear a first-person perspective of the first twenty years of my grandfather’s life, but standing on a grassy hill in Milo, Iowa listening to stories about the life of my grandfather’s best friend I felt lucky. From my backseat on our way home yesterday, I reflected on our quick jaunt to Iowa and I found myself tearing up as I thought about how somehow I knew my grandfather was happy that I had been able to experience that, even if it meant I had to travel to Iowa to do it.