What a weekend getaway with my grandma and her boyfriend taught me about love
We’re driving down a Florida interstate highway. I’ve just arrived in West Palm for a weekend retreat. My grandmother is in the passenger’s seat, her boy friend, Kal, is driving and there I am, sitting in the back.
We pull off the highway and come to a red light. My grandmother reaches over the consul and smears a glob of lotion across Kal’s face.
“Now, isn’t that better?” she asks. “You’re moist.”
He looks back at her defiantly and says, “Not moist, greasy.”
My grandma, Babi, is an outspoken woman who always has an opinion, who calls everyone “sweetheart” and prays for her grandchildren’s’ happiness. She is a lady who rises early each morning to go to the gym and shakes her hips when a song comes on. She tells stories from her youth in Havana with her 4 siblings, and likes to watch Fox news on the maximum volume. She met my grandfather, Bernie, not long after coming to the states; they married, had three children and raised them in New Jersey.
Kal, is mellow man who always wears a smile. He is a tall army veteran from New Jersey who still works as a pharmacist a few days a week. He tells stories from his youth as a sergeant in World War II stationed across seas and likes to read the comics. He met his wife, Gladys not long after. They married and had three children and raised them in New York.
So there I am still sitting quietly in the back of the car, my attention split between my new tropical environment the scene before me with my grandmother, her boyfriend and the lotion.
Babi and Kal have been “going steady” for about 5 years now. They met at a bereavement group after both lost their spouses. What on earth is dating like so late in life? And if it’s anything like what we’re accustomed to, they’re in for a wild ride. Although I couldn’t spot a single other millennial over the course of my weekend, spending time with my grandmother, Kal and their friends taught me a few things about love and companionship.
Whether you’re 20 or 80, we all need people with whom we can spend our days cracking jokes, eating meals or telling stories.
For Babi and Kal, every night is date night. They refuse to sit around wasting their newfound youth. They’re do-ers, they’re see-ers, they’re explores. And while it may take them twice the amount of time, they choose to fill their days with activities. They don’t settle for a night of Netflix when they can go out to the movies, a concert or a late-night run for ice-cream.
My grandma and Kal have a fun relationship and don’t take anything too seriously. They sneak kisses behind my back when they think I’m not looking. They stare at each other longingly. But best of all, they joke, play tricks and tease each other.
“For Hannukah, I’m going to get your grandmother some boxing gloves,” Kal says after my grandmother fired one of her sharp retorts.
“You’ll need to get a pair for yourself to make it a fair fight,” I tell him.
Back at their apartment, Kal pulls a coffee mug out of the cupboard. He turns to me, smiles and says, “It’s my favorite.” The cup reads, “Who needs Google when your girlfriend knows everything.”
Over the course of the weekend, I came to see just how important companionship truly is.
As their bodies rebel against them, I’m comforted knowing they have each other. They are buddies who mutually understand the sharp pains of arthritis and the persistent, aching pain of losing a spouse. Unburdened with the responsibilities of growing children or the time constraints of a job, they’re free to spend time doing the things they love with the people they love. I’ll be taking a note from their book. Let’s make the most out of each day and make a conscious decision to see things and do things, and surround ourselves with people who bring us joy.
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