Sunday, July 1, 2007

A Love Story

Just think about this for a second. Our entire existences are based in part on the decisions made by others. Some of us would not even BE here but for the decision on the part of one of our parents to perhaps do something as simple (or as terrifying) as respond to another’s flirtatious glance across a crowded, smoke-filled room. In another country. Far from home. Where no one speaks a word of English.

Let me back up.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (Copenhagen, Denmark to be exact) there lived a beautiful princess. She didn’t live in a castle. Her parents didn’t lock her in a tower. Her family was not one of privilege. But she was a princess, no less. Her father was a bricklayer; her mother a hat maker. And, as all children should be, she was lavished upon with magical love. Her name was Greta Birgit Lind.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the earth (Rapid City, South Dakota to be exact) there lived a prince of a man, a self-made man of the strongest American stock from the greatest generation of men. Sadly, his own childhood was not as enchanted. His sweet mother died of a sudden illness when he was only six. His father died just ten years later, leaving him to make his own way in this world. That way included college at South Dakota State University and two years service in the army where he was stationed in Germany. Of course, as destiny would have it, Todd traveled on furlough with a buddy to Denmark and visited a local pub. Thus, said flirtatious glance across a crowded, smoke-filled room occurred and destiny was sealed. His name was Eugene Todd Martin.

No one can tell me what they talked about on that first date. She did not speak one word of English, and he certainly did not speak Danish. But somehow, this 17 and 23 year old were able to communicate one thing: they were crazy about each other. The remainder of Todd’s commitment to the army was spent writing letters and speaking occasionally to Birgit over the phone. Luckily, Birgit’s mother spoke a little English, and she was able to translate, for the most part, the affections of her daughter’s suitor. Think about that one. He saw her two more times before his commission ended, but his service for the army came to its inevitable end. He packed everything but his heart, which he left in Copenhagen, and flew home to the states. He took a job as a pharmacist in his hometown of Rapid.

It took no time at all for him to make that long distance phone call. A staticy connection from America with a very anxious, very nervous young man on the other end brought the proposal for marriage to Birgit through her mother who translated. Birgit told her mom to tell her boyfriend that she said yes. He flew back to Denmark and on June 29th, 1957, Todd Martin married Birgit Lind in a ceremony he didn’t understand a word of. God only knows what they made him promise her. He’d only seen her three times before he put a beautiful diamond ring on her finger--the same diamond that his own father had given his mother years before. It was the same diamond that his son placed on my hand years later. It is the same diamond our son will give his bride when destiny brings them together.

Fifty years, two children, three grandchildren, a son-in-law, a daughter-in-law, several pets, houses and vacations later, they still epitomize the love and devotion we all dream of. They had each other. They built a life. They’ve made the most of the first fifty years and eagerly anticiplate the next fifty. I can’t explain how they did it. Or how Sean-Martin and I are doing it. Or how my sister-and-brother-in-law are doing it. Or how we’re showing our children to do it. All I know is that with each morning that comes, love remains.

Click on their video. You might want to grab a kleenex.

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