Sunday, February 13, 2011

When a Man Loves a Woman: A Portrait of Love

(In Honor of Phillip and Mary Gray-Valentine’s Day 2011)

The love that my grandfather had for my grandmother was inspiring. It was the culmination of survival and living; of the good and bad times; of lean years seasoned by years of abundance; of moments wrought with profound sorrow and immense joy. Their love captured a staying power that is noticeably absent from many relationships today.

I can still see my grandfather rocking gingerly in his Lazyboy™, the aroma of his Tampa Nugget® mingling with the scents of Noxzema and rose air freshener in the two bedroom home where my father and his five siblings were raised. His mahogany hand lightly tapped the arm of his chair between tokes of his cigar and sips of his perfectly percolated coffee, as his record player repeatedly played the extended version of “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge. I was content to sit and watch him; to simply share the cramped space of his living room along with the rhythmic crackle of his album informing our surroundings. He was my tall, dark and handsome hero.

Inevitably, and as if on cue, my grandmother would come into the living room for one reason or another. I’d watched my grandfather’s eyes follow her as she passed by. She was 5’2’’, with a big bosom (that she did not pass on to her granddaughters and no backside (thankfully she withheld that, too).

Granddad seemed to inhale her. I don’t remember ever seeing him so much as glance at another woman. She mesmerized him. She was a powerful spell.

As she passed by, he would give his cigar and coffee a momentary respite, and with a single tear rolling down his cheek, he would say,

“Ooooh, I just love that yella’ gal right there”.

She would blush and leave the room, pretending to be annoyed by his attention. She knew what she was doing. And that tickled me…and my granddad…every time.

Sometimes I would request to hear Granddad’s song just to watch this ritual of my elders.

Sometimes they would dance. Their movements were lovingly succinct. They were oblivious to my presence. It was probably the only time my grandmother let my grandfather lead. I wished their harmony upon my parents, while hoping that their simpatico was in my future. I remain hopeful.

My grandfather left this life speaking my grandmother’s name. He did not want to leave her. In the name of his beloved, he fought his immortality right until the end, leaving me with great expectations and an amazing portrait of love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!