" S H M I L Y "
My grandparents were married for over half a century, and played their
own special game from the time they had met each other. The goal of
their game was to write the word "shmily" in a surprise place for the
other to find. They took turns leaving "shmily" around the house, and as soon
as one of them discovered it, it was their turn to hide it once more.
They dragged "shmily" with their fingers through the sugar and flour
containers to await whoever was preparing the next meal. They smeared
it in the dew on the windows overlooking the patio where my grandma always
fed us warm, homemade pudding w/ blue food coloring. "Shmily" was written
in the steam left on the mirror after a hot shower, where it would reappear
bath after bath. At one point, my grandmother even unrolled an entire roll
of toilet paper to leave "shmily" on the very last sheet.
There was no end to the places "shmily" would pop up. Little notes
with "shmily" scribbled hurriedly were found on dashboards, and car
seats, or taped to steering wheels. The notes were stuffed inside shoes and
left under pillows. "Shmily" was written in the dust upon the mantel and
traced in the ashes of the fireplace. This mysterious word was as much a part
of my grandparents' house as the furniture.
It took me a long time before I was able to fully appreciate my
grandparents' game. Skepticism has kept me from believing in true love
one that is pure and enduring. However, I never doubted my
grandparents' relationship. They had love down pat. It was more than their
flirtatious little games; it was a way of life. Their relationship was based on a
devotion and passionate affection which not everyone is lucky
Grandma and Grandpa held hands every chance they could. They stole
kisses as they bumped into each other in their tiny kitchen. They
finished each other's sentences and shared the daily crossword puzzle and word
jumble. My grandma whispered to me about how cute my grandpa was, how
handsome an old he had grown to be. She claimed that she really knew
"how to pick 'em." Before every meal they bowed their heads and gave
thanks, marveling at their blessings: a wonderful family, good fortune, and
But there was a dark cloud in my grandparents' life: my grandmother
had breast cancer. The disease had first appeared ten years earlier. As
always, Grandpa was with her every step of the way. He comforted her
in their yellow room, painted that way so that she could always be
surrounded by sunshine, even when she was too sick to go outside.
Now the cancer was again attacking her body. With the help of a cane
and my grandfather's steady hand, they went to church every morning.
But my grandmother grew steadily weaker until, finally, she could not leave
the house anymore. For a while, Grandpa would go to church alone, praying
to God to watch over his wife. Then one day, what we all dreaded finally
happened. Grandma was gone.
"Shmily." It was scrawled in yellow on the pink ribbons of my
grandmother's funeral bouquet. As the crowd thinned and the last
mourners turned to leave, my aunts, uncles, cousins and other family
members came forward and gathered around Grandma one last time.
Grandpa stepped up to my grandmother's casket and, taking a shaky
breath, he began to sing to her. Through his tears and grief, the
song came, a deep and throaty lullaby.
Shaking with my own sorrow, I will never forget that moment. For I
knew that, although I couldn't begin to fathom the depth of their
love, I had been privileged to witness its unmatched beauty.
S-h-m-i-l-y: See How Much I Love You.