A Real Life Love Story
by Theresa Reichman
A while back I came across a Facebook group called, “Disney Gave Me Unrealistic Expectations about Love.” I laughed when I saw it, but then I realized how true this statement is! I mean, let’s face it – real life is not made up of magic carpet rides and glass slippers, now is it?
It’s easy to become cynical about true love. While age plays a big part in the distribution of these statistics, it is said that 40-50 percent of marriages in the United States will result in divorce. And just because two people stay married does not mean that they are happily so. Many couples choose to stay legally wed for monetary reasons, for the kids, to keep their dignity, their house, their citizenship, etc …
However, every once in a while you find a couple who redeems your hope in lasting love. For me, that would be my Nana and Pappap, Elaine and Barry Hawk.
Elaine and Barry met on a blind double date – however, they were not set up with each other. There were no sparks between Barry’s buddy and Elaine, and so Barry asked his friend’s permission to ask her out himself. Thank God his friend said yes!
On December 23, 1953 they became husband and wife. They had three biological children of their own before they grew their home and their hearts even further by becoming foster parents. Over the course of their marriage, Nana and Pappap took in 26 children in need. They clothed them, fed them, and loved them as their own. After one little girl spent the first five years of life with them, Nana and Pappap were elated to finally call her their own by legally adopting her.
But beyond loving together and raising a family together, they actually had fun together, too! Yes, Elaine and Barry were socialites with many friends as close as family. They frequently took camping trips with other families and while the children ran around and played, the parents sat nearby and talked over chilled beer.
Every Sunday Nana and Pappap would enjoy a Manhattan together. I can recall spending Sunday dinners together as a family and watching curiously as Nana and Pappap would clink their glasses together, the deep golden liquid swishing around inside, while a cherry rolls around in the bottom. They were always smiling and laughing together. Pappap’s warm, deep voice would roll through the room and Nana’s animated laugh would always follow. Like hearing “Polo” after someone yells “Marco”, or the “dong” to a doorbell’s “ding”. (Am I stretching too much here? Well… you get the idea.)
Then Nana’s heart began to fail. The love manifested between my Nana and Pappap during those four or five years when she was in and out of the hospital was both beautiful and tragic.
My Pappap did everything for my Nana. He never left her side. And then one night as he was lifting her from her wheel chair, she passed away in his arms. She was home, she was peaceful, and she was being held by the love of her life.
This past April marked one year since her passing, and my Pappap wrote this for her:
“A Tribute to My Wife Elaine on the First Anniversary of Her Passing: Thank you for all the ways in which my Life was enriched by our time together. Thank you for the good times we shared and for all the happy memories. With All My Love, Barry.”
This Sunday is my Pappap’s birthday, and I know what I will be doing. I will be clinking my glass with my husband’s, with that deep golden liquid swishing around inside while a cherry rolls around on the bottom. And somehow, between the miles and heavens that separate us all, we’re still together.