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My grandparents’ love story

By Caring Across member Peter Miller

It wasn’t until I took the time to really get to know my grandparents that I realized theirs was an amazing love story.

When I was in college, I lived with my grandparents. My grandma would invite me over to their side of the house for supper every night, and every once in a while, she’d get to talking about these letters she had exchanged with my grandfather during WWII.

I’d always tell her that I wanted to read them someday, and she’d say, “Oh, you don’t want to read those. They’re so boring!” But when I graduated, those letters — all 350 of them — were her gift to me.

Several years ago, my grandpa’s dementia got worse and I became one of his caregivers. Towards the end of his life, I spent up to 30 hours a week caring for him.

And it’s during this time I started writing songs based on the letters he sent to my grandma. It felt like to a chance to have other conversations with him, to stay connected. 

Suddenly, I had this access to who my grandpa — Alvin — was as a young man, only ever having known him as my grandpa. I learned how he took a job splitting wood from my great grandfather after hearing how beautiful his daughter Verlie was. How right before he left for the war, Alvin asked Verlie to marry him, but she said no thinking they didn’t know each other well enough. And how the next four years he wrote to her anyway, telling her that she didn’t have any obligations to him and could move on, it was her choice — but she kept writing back.

Yesterday, on Grandparents Day, I shared this story with my friends and family, as part of the national celebration of this beautiful holiday. And my band released an album last year based on my grandparents’ letters. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to get to know them through the songs they inspired.

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