Monday, July 13, 2009

My Aunt, the 83-Year-Old Bride

I went to a wedding last weekend where the bride was 83 and the groom was 87.
The bride is my great-aunt, and she’s always been full of life and easy to laugh. When my dad told me that she was getting married, I assessed the 3-hour drive to Yakima, and decided that if I were to continue to call myself a romantic, I had to go.
Lev and Lorraine knew each other growing up in Cowiche. For anyone who doesn’t know – and that’s going to be nearly everyone -- Cowiche is a small farming community west of Yakima, with only a small grocery store, a high school and a gas station. It’s its own little valley full of orchards and a little bit of wheat, with mostly humble homes and at least two churches. On Saturday was more than 90 degrees and the sagebrush is snarled into the rocks in any area that hasn’t been cultivated for farming. It was dry and dusty, and small enough that I wasn’t sure if it could have been any smaller when my grandparents grew up there.
Despite all this, I was charmed as we drove into town. It could have been because I was recognizing a place where my grandparents grew up and that my grandfather hasn’t been back to for probably more than 20 years. It could have been that I recognized a lifestyle that I’ve come to appreciate more and more, and it could be because it was a beautiful sunny day and two people far past the age that many people live were pledging love to each other for the rest of their lives.
My grandmother and her sister both moved out of Cowiche and made their lives somewhere else. Lorraine has three children, all of whom made it to her third wedding. She became reacquainted with Lev five years ago at a Cowiche High School class reunion, and they’ve been dating ever since.
Lev’s wife had cancer and died in their 53rd year of marriage.ten years prior. Now he can say he’s been married three days. Lev’s children came, and many of his grandchildren made it with their children. I marveled at the idea that his great-grandchildren will have memories of their great-grandfather, and some of the oldest ones would remember being at his wedding.
Many people asked why someone would remarry this late in life, and I didn’t really have an answer until that day. For practical purposes, they married because they were “tired of living in sin,” as my aunt called it. But that isn’t the whole answer. No one whose face lit up as much as hers did could have had sin on the mind as she stood there. She pulled me into a hug when I arrived, then whispered, her eyes twinkling, “I can’t believe I got such a handsome man to marry me.” I knew I would see it and that’s why I went, but the wedding reminded me that it’s never too late for love, for a second or third chance, for the chance of a lifetime to be with someone you love.
Lorraine has made it full-circle: she started her life in a small farm town and had ended up there, 83 years later. She has lived, loved, and laughed. After a lifetime of seeing and doing so many things, she is still not ready to give up and sink into old age.
I think too often it’s easy to think that life ends at a certain point, or that you will figure everything out and live happily ever after. Part of me is glad this isn’t the case, because it would be mean that you just get to put on the cruise control and stop paying so much attention. Lorraine has reminded me that there’s never a reason to rely on the cruise control, and that the view is better with the top down and the wind blowing in your hair, even when that hair is gray.

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