This coming Wednesday is Valentine’s Day. (Gentlemen, you are welcome for the reminder.) In honor of this very overcommercialized holiday, I would like to tell you about the most romantic true love story I know: the story of my grandparents, John and Lois.

It is true that there were a few Hollywood-worthy dramatic moments early on in their relationship. They met when my grandmother was 18 and my grandfather was 21, and when she broke it off, John drove across several states in the middle of the night in an attempt to win her back. He fell asleep at the wheel and had a vision of the Virgin Mary herself saying, “Wake up, John!” (My grandfather is very Catholic. The type of Catholic who wishes Mass were still in Latin.) But she wasn’t ready to settle down, so they went their separate ways, and my grandfather has been a very safe driver ever since.

Lois married Melvin Spencer, a dashing Air Force pilot and my biological grandfather. Tragically, he died in a plane crash several years later. Lois was a widow at 22, with a 6-month-old daughter (who, 30 years later, would become my mother, thus continuing the circle of life). Another marriage followed, resulting in two children (my aunt and uncle) and a divorce.

Like many millennials in our own era, Lois went home to upstate New York and moved in with her mother, three small children in tow. This is where the story gets much less Hollywood, and much better for the main characters, because it was there, in a tiny rural town, that John came back into Lois’ life – aided by my great-grandmother, who apparently did know what was best for her daughter.

He came with his hat in one hand and his toolbox in the other. My grandfather has always been very good with his hands – he makes the most beautiful miniature wooden models – and is a man of deeds, not words. In fact, when I was 7 and extremely talkative, he told me if I kept up talking at my current rate, I would run out of words by the time I was 14. (Joke’s on him: I’m still talking, but I have slowed down a bit.) Their dates involved John coming over and fixing up various things around the house – drafty windows, leaky faucets – and staying for dinner. As someone who grew up in a 200-year-old farmhouse where something always needs fixing, I find this incredibly romantic. I’m sure many Mainers will agree.

They both had baggage. John had five children from a previous marriage, but he took Lois’ three under his wing without hesitation. He legally adopted my mom and unofficially adopted my aunt and uncle. He taught them to drive, stayed up late to make sure they got home before curfew and moved them into their college dorms.


When John and Lois got married, they were – to borrow one of my mother’s turns of phrase – “poor as church mice,” but through sound investment strategies (seriously, my grandmother could go pro), a good union job and some extreme couponing, they pulled themselves into financial security, sent their kids to college and live in a cozy house with a very territorial house cat my grandfather found underneath a bush. Truly, the American Dream.

Every night, before bed, they hold hands, pray for their friends who need praying for and say the Lord’s Prayer – both the Catholic version and the Protestant version, thus putting 500 years of religious conflict to rest. They always say “Love you, miss you” to each other whenever either one goes anywhere, including to the bottom of the driveway to get the mail.

It’s not the type of love that gets made into a Hollywood movie (but if it were, my grandmother should be played by Meryl Streep). It’s a warm, comfortable, boring love, a love that comes from teamwork and hard work and thinking that grand gestures are expensive and prone to backfire. True love is just showing up and doing the work, day after day. Forever.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: mainemillennial

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