In the early 1920’s Maria and Jack were in love. Her family didn’t approve of him, so they had to sneak dates and kisses, but they were determined to make it work. Then Maria found out she was pregnant. She and Jack were overjoyed, but knew that her parents would try to separate them. The parents had already introduced Maria to many ‘suitable’ men hoping to persuade her to leave Jack, but it never worked.
A few months into the pregnancy something went wrong. Not horribly, but the doctors wanted to keep Maria in the hospital, on bed rest, for the remainder of her term. She didn’t like being cooped up, and knew that Jack would face some difficulties in getting to see her, but she settled in for the months ahead.
But Jack never came to visit. She wrote him letter after letter and he never answered. She asked her parents if they had seen Jack and they said no. They said this was a sign of Jack’s character. They said that if he was willing to run away from her when she was in need she should give up on him, and marry someone else so that her child would have a father.
Andrew was one of the suitors she had met before her pregnancy. He was nice, if a little older than she was. From the first week she was in the hospital he stopped by every few days with flowers, or a bit of candy, or just to chat. Some days she refused to see him, still waiting desperately for Jack to return. But after two months she began to really listen to Andrew, and to get to know him.
About six weeks before her due date, Andrew proposed. He told her that he loved her dearly, and would always take care of her and her child. He would claim the child as his own so they could be a true family. Maria didn’t know what to do. She realized now that Jack hadn’t ever loved her the way she loved him, and that he wasn’t coming back. She didn’t want to raise the baby by herself, and Andrew was a sweet, kind man who would take care of them. She accepted his proposal, and they were married with her still in a hospital bed. Their daughter was born, and she found herself falling in love with him as the years passed.
But Jack hadn’t given up on Maria. He wrote her letters daily, and tried desperately to see her in the hospital. But as an unwed woman of the time her parents spoke for her. They saw her mail before she did, and took any letters from Jack and burned them. They created a list of approved visitors and only the people on the list were allowed up to the floor where Maria was staying.
One day, Maria’s father knocked on Jack’s door. Without a word he handed Jack a newspaper folded so that the wedding announcement of Andrew and Maria was right on top. Jack read it slowly, and then again. He looked at Maria’s father and said “I’ll never bother her again. I guess she didn’t love me the way I loved her after all.” And he left town shortly thereafter.
I am not quite sure what to think of this story. Because it’s true.* The daughter of Jack and Maria, that Andrew claimed as his own, was my grandmother. The romantic part of me wishes that somehow Jack had gotten through the barricades put up by Great-Great-Grandparents I never knew, and found his love. But Andrew, my Great-Grandfather? He really was the kindest, sweetest man; he did amazing things in his lifetime. And he loved us all so very much.
When I heard this story I had to ask my mom a question. “Does that mean that I’m not actually related to Great-Grandpa by blood at all?” The answer was yes, but I was told never to bring it up. And how could I? This was my first, and most lasting, lesson in family being the people you choose, not just blood. I choose my Great-Grandpa Andrew, blood or not. And I always will.
* The basic details are true. I’ve imagined bits of it and changed the names. I only remember hearing this story once when I was in high school, it’s something we never talked about much, so any mistakes are entirely my own.
@@@This is my entry for week 10 of LJ Idol – it’s an open topic week so we could write about anything we wanted. I will likely post a link to the poll once it is up on Saturday. Thank you for reading.@@@