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March 17, 2011
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When your old wedding ring was new
And each dream that I dreamed came true
I remember with pride how we stood side by side
What a beautiful picture you made as my bride

Even though silver crowns your hair
I can still see the gold ringlets there
Love's old flame is the same as the day I changed your name
When your old wedding ring was new

Some of my favorite memories of my grandfather come from family dinners. Countless times during these dinners, as my Farfar (Swedish for father's father) would look with pride at the family he created with my grandmother, he would make a toast. Often times, he would begin to tear up, pound his chest, and whisper “come on, you damn old Swede.” But his attempts to stop his tears were fruitless. Soon, once dinner was over and the plates were cleared, Farfar would be asked to sing his sentimental rendition of “When Your Old Wedding Ring Was New” to his wife of sixty-two years. By the time the song was over, his tears would be falling freely.

A few summers ago, my family celebrated sixty years of my grandparents’ loving marriage, and they were asked to describe how they met. Farmor insisted she fell in love with Farfar on the spot. Of course, Farfar was less willing to admit to anything as far-fetched as love at first sight. But when the rest of the family had moved on to the next topic of conversation, he leaned across the table to where I was sitting, gestured for me to lean across the table too, and whispered, “Jess, she absolutely foxed me.”

When Farfar’s health started failing and he was moved into a nursing home, I found it difficult to prepare myself for the changes I would see in him. His back was slumped, partly from pain, but also from dejection. While my family and I tried to make small talk with him, he nodded occasionally, but mostly remained silent. That is, until Farmor walked into the room. She shuffled in late because she had stopped to chat with all the friends she had made in her weeks visiting Far. As she entered the room, Farfar’s eyes lit up, a relaxed smile spread over his face, and he murmured in his gravelly voice “Hey, baby.” After sixty-two years of marriage, my ninety-one year old grandfather and his eighty-six year old bride smooched right there in his nursing home room.

I love talking about my grandfather. My grandfather was a tough and strong man. He worked for everything he had and then took every piece of himself and unselfishly passed it on to his family. When I tell Farfar’s story, though, I inevitably tell my grandmother’s as well. The love that I have seen them share has forever fused them together in my mind as one loving entity. My Farfar had more love for my grandmother, my Farmor, than most people will experience in their lifetimes. The opportunity to see their love grow throughout my life thus far has been a blessing for which I am truly grateful.

My grandfather was remarkable. When I tell people about him, I hope to be able to capture in just a few minutes all that he has taught me. I love him because he, more than anyone else in my life, taught me what it means to love. He, as he blinked back tears during family dinners, taught me what it means to be strong. My Farfar wasn’t perfect. But he loved me, he was proud of me, and he thought I could do anything. And I, in turn am proud that he is my grandfather.

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