My Grandparents' Vows: A Lesson On Love
The universe is funny, because I needed to find these sooner.
Ever since I was born my Pop-Pop called me "Number One ." I was his first grandchild, yes, but the nickname meant more than that. If I wanted to be Class President, I would. If I wanted to make the Varsity field hockey team, I would. If I wanted to graduate at the top of my class, I would. If I wanted to work in television, I would. Each day my nickname became less of a nickname and more of an affirmation of what I deserved in life, in my career and in love.
I called him my best friend because he was. He would pick me up from school or pop up at school functions and everyone thought he was the coolest person ever. (I didn't see anyone else's grandparents blasting Hov in the Lexus.) And whenever I had a problem or a question he was the first person I'd call or text. Thus, losing him was devastating.
He passed away in 2012 and left me a box filled with photos, jewelry, writings, obituaries, old credit cards, books, letters, plaques, etc. He taped a note on the top of it that read: "Keep-sake box for Nadirah. One day this box will have many meanings/memories for you."
After he passed, I spent almost every weekend of the last six years rifling through the box as a form of therapy. To look at old baby pictures of myself. To look at old pictures of my dad and clown the heck out of him. To try to answer the questions I was afraid to ask. To try to figure out how he'd answer a question if he were here. To feel as close to the best friend I'd lost as possible.
I went through this damn box a million times. But it wasn't until recently did I find two things I'd never seen before. Underneath all of the pictures, keepsakes, jewelry, and whatever else my Pop-Pop had collected: he and my grandmother's wedding vows and a poem he wrote her a few months after they married.
My grandparents met in Philly in 1970, and married on May 19, 1971. Their vows read:
"If it be the will of God, I hope that our union may be one of peace that enables us to struggle in unit and help the liberation of our people in order to recreate a better life for our family, nation and the world of man. May God, the spirit of our people, enable us to struggle in times whether good or bad. May I stick by my Black man as he struggle(s) though the trials and tribulations of this western racist, capitalist society. May I prove to be a nurse, lover, mother..."
My grandmother passed when I was three. I don't remember much about her. But my family often talks about the grandmother of whom I am a spitting image. Whenever I start talking about race, class, or politics, my aunts or uncles say: "She sounds just like Jan." When I grew out my afro everyone said: "You look just like Jan." And in some of my most cherished conversations with my Pop-Pop, he would beam when he told me how much I reminded him of Jan.
Sometimes when I think of those conversations I am regretful. I wish I would have asked him more about marriage. About men. About heartbreak. We talked about everything under the damn sun, but whenever the conversation turned to love or marriage and how they relate to me I would run down a list of my dreams or goals and respond: "I want to be 'Number One’ so I have to stay focused."
But what my grandparents show me is that healthy love never snatches your focus. It never hurts. It never abuses. It never makes you question yourself or your worth. It never asks you to struggle. It never gaslights. It never manipulates. It isn't dishonest. It doesn't leave you unsure. And it most certainly never drains you. It inspires you whether to work harder and together for a better future, whether the love is romantic or platonic.
So listen, if me and my future man aren't STANDING in love while fighting capitalism and racism to create a better world for the little Black seeds we're going to sprinkle across this Earth like my grandparents then what are we doing? Foolishness, that's what. And foolishness is usually broke, dishonest, has a lot of growing up to and probably shouldn’t have their number saved on your phone.
(And if this just made you realize your partner isn't the one for you take the gifts you got today and run!)