I was 8 1/2 years old when my Grandma married my Grandpa.
The funny thing about that is until just now, I thought I was 10 when they were married. In fact, I have said that very phrase, “I was 10 when my Grandma married my Grandpa”, over and over again. Except that I wasn’t 10. I was 8 1/2.
I was there when they got married on the reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. I have a few memories of that day. But now, I wonder how accurate those memories are.
I remember something about my Grandma needing to be adopted by a bird-clan mother so she could marry Grandpa on the res. But is that even a thing? A bird-clan mother? I don’t know.
I remember my Mom making a joke that Grandma had just married her brother since they had the same bird-clan mother. Grandma didn’t find that joke particularly amusing. But did my Mom really make that joke to her own mother?
I remember the drums, and the jingling of bells on my Grandma’s clothing. But as I look at the photo I don’t see any of the small metal bells I am picturing when I hear the sound in my memory. Bells that aren’t shiny at all. Small, handmade bells that dangle at the end of a strand of beads. But were there really bells?
I remember playing outside under some very large pine trees. There were pine needles and cones everywhere. But there are pine trees everywhere in Spokane. Did I really play under them on that day on the res?
I remember my Mom making some comment that this marriage might be the one that finally sticks. I remember my Grandma saying something about how if you get married on the res you can’t ever divorce. I didn’t understand why that mattered so much to my Mom that day. I do now.
This wasn’t Grandma’s first or second marriage. The number was higher. But it was the first marriage during my lifetime. It was the first time I had a Grandpa on my Mom’s side of the family.
Of course, my Mom has a father. A father she shares with all three of her siblings. A father who is still alive. A father I met once when I was 16. A father I have spoken with twice on the phone. And while you would be accurate if you called him my grandfather, he was never my Grandpa.
But this man, the man my Grandma married on the Reservation when I was 8 1/2, he became my Grandpa. And that, in the end, is the only memory from that day that really matters.
This was the marriage that stuck.
And I am so very glad.
ps – This photo is not the one I remember seeing of this day. The photo my Mom has of this day is not as happy. It’s more formal and posed. This photo only exists on the wall of Grandma & Grandpa’s home. During my final visit to my Grandma in the days before her death, I used the Google photoscan app to preserve a copy of this happy photo for myself. And once again, I am so very glad.