I recently came across the love letters of my grandparents.
They were married almost 40 years before my grandfather died and were a great example of a healthy marriage. My grandmother was the oldest of five children from a single mom and quit school to help provide for the family. From the letters I've learned that my grandfather, who was in the navy, would travel 400 miles, which meant 16 hours on a bus each way, just to spend a weekend with her. They met through mutual friends in June and the letters go through his Christmas leave when they spontaneously got married because his orders changed.
There is a letter for every day they were apart.
As I read them a few months ago, I savored each one... it was nice to see that even though in today's world we may often wonder if love like this still exists, the thing I learned is that the patterns of early relationships and blooming love are still the same.
Lesson 1: Gratitude and Respect is The Best Place to Start
In current dating we have the follow-up text after a date... Here's old school follow-up in 1947.
"I would like to thank you again for one of the most pleasant evenings I ever spent in my entire life. I can't remember when I've enjoyed myself more. I am looking forward with great joy to many more of the same."
Lesson 2: "The Rules" Can Keep Us From Enjoying Freedom Within New Love
Apparently my grandmother had the same worries with "the rules" that we face today. These rules are either a construct of society or of our own making but can cage us in. After just two weekends together, my grandfather comforts her with this:
"It isn't how long one has known someone or how many dates they've had together-it's the way one feels in his or her heart. To me, it was a perfectly natural thing to do-I'd have felt badly if I hadn't kissed you. 'TO THE PURE IN HEART, ALL THINGS ARE PURE.' And as you said-it was a perfect way to end a perfect evening! So now you can quit worrying about whether I think you're a bad girl for kissing me. My unbiased opinion of you is-I think you're the sweetest, most prettiest gal I know and I also think, all joking aside, that I'm in love with you! So there, too. I hope you like the idea as much as I do."
Lesson 3: Putting Yourself Out There Can Turn an Ordinary Day Into a Lifetime of Love
My grandfather was planning to remain a bachelor and continue enjoying the company of many women until the right one caught his eye and then his heart. My grandmother was serious and focused when they met. She was working hard and going to school at night to get her GED, unlike many other gals her age she wasn't waiting around to get married. Somehow, the right person turned their world upside-down.
"I have so many memories wrapped up in, and around, you. How I wrote for a date because I had nothing definite to do one weekend-how adorable you were, and are-how perfect our first real date was-how very nice and completely natural our first kiss was-all the hours and kisses and teasing and just being with you that have followed and, please God, will continue to follow-all the little things I might have forgotten, and more that I'm looking forward to with the utmost eagerness. You see, darling, I kinda love you and I'm kinda wrapped up in you and its all pretty new to me. I can't quite understand it all myself. "
Lesson Four: Love is Often a Force Bigger Than Us
My grandfather explained the force and surrendering to it like this...
"I'm sometimes forced to believe the moon and stars do play a part in one's life. I know most farmers plant according to the sign of the moon-or the most successful ones do. Also the tides are controlled by the moon. But my love for you is controlled by the grasp you have on my heart and by no other method! The world and all in it might be governed by the sun and moon, I am governed only by you."
Lesson Five: Love Costs Us Something... Even When the Risk Pays Off
My grandparents couldn't predict when or if love would come, and felt they may have little control over it once they found it. But they knew it came at a worthy price, as my grandfather so honestly explains.
"One never gets something for nothing. You might and probably will think that's pretty cynical but it's what I truly believe. I can't remember getting something for nothing-not even love. It has cost me more than anything before in my life! Your love has cost me my heart and I'm still not sure I really like the ride, but my heart means a lot to me. Of course, I got a real, fine price for it but it's changing my life and I can't get use to the idea."
Obviously, he got used to the idea and knew not to let a good thing get away from him. But he's right... Love does costs us something and it can be uncomfortable at the same time as being the most wonderful thing in the world. It costs us our life-plans, our preconstructed rules, our precious time and often putting someone else's needs before our own. The best sacrifice of all might just be sweet vulnerability of heartfelt words thoughtfully written down on special paper by lovers that not only fill their recipients' heart with joy, but also touch the hearts of people who read them sixty-eight years later.