Saturday Stories: A Real Valentine

One summer, in the 1930s, my grandfather, Bumpa, worked pushing an ice cream cart. Being the enterprising young man that he was, he knew just where he would find the most customers, too. He left the city limits and walked out into the country to the local swimming hole. Many of the young people that lived in the neighboring towns gathered there to escape the summer heat and humidity. Bumpa made good sales when he made the trek out there.

On one particular day, however, he found more than good business. As he was serving the people lined up for treats, he looked up and saw a pretty girl. In his words, he was “smitten” right then and there. After a few inquiries, he learned the girl’s name and was introduced to her. He discovered that she lived in a village on the other side of the swimming hole, about ten miles away from his home.

That did not deter him, however. He managed to get introduced to her and then without a car, he walked to her house to court her. What were ten miles in the eyes of love? He made the trip many times and became a welcome guest in Mamie’s home.

When his visits lasted too long, her parents let Bumpa sleep on the couch in the front room. The downside to that was Mamie’s dog. That dog just didn’t like Bumpa. Once, in the middle of the night, Bumpa woke up having to go to the bathroom (which may or may not have been outside). When he attempted to swing his legs off the couch to stand up, there was the dog, hackles raised and teeth bared. Bumpa quickly lay back down and stayed there in agony the rest of the night. When the first family member woke in the morning, calling off the dog, Bumpa made a beeline to the bathroom. He had to have been serious about Mamie to endure that kind of discomfort!

Eventually they married and had four children. They comforted each other through the death of three of those children. Bumpa helped Mamie run an in home restaurant and with her catering business. Mamie put up with Bumpa’s train obsessions and other wacky ideas. They loved, laughed, fought and cried. They were married for 68 years before Bumpa died. Mamie followed him the next year. Bumpa stayed “smitten” all of those years, though Alzheimer’s robbed him of their precious last years together.

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