I never got a chance to know my dad’s parents. I try my best to know them by poring over photos and asking for stories to be told and retold and told again. And I feel like I do know them when I look into my father’s eyes. It’s in those moments that I know his parents were kind and gentle and loving. I look forward to meeting them on the other side and listening intently as they fill the gaps in the childhood stories my dad tries his best to tell. But for all I don’t know about them, I do know they loved one another.
On the other side of the family are my mom’s parents — known to me as Baba and Dido (Grandma and Grandpa in Ukrainian / Russian). Though they live on the West Coast and I don’t see them as often as I’d like, they’ve played an incredibly important part in my life. And their love story is really, really special.
Both of their families migrated from the former Soviet Union to China when they were young children. They met as teenagers and fell in love, and soon started a family together, including my dear mom. Life in China wasn’t easy. They fought poverty, famine, and persecution for their Christian faith. Through it all, they held onto their faith in God… and they held onto each other’s hands. After nearly 30 years in China, they migrated to “freedom” — via boat to Australia. They lived there for a decade — in a house, with running water and electricity. Life was good. Then they got on another boat and took a weeks-long trip to British Columbia, Canada, where they settled and have lived for over 40 years.
Still in love.
Still made for each other.
She’s 85 and still pins her long, gray hair up into a bun every single morning. He’s 88 and still constantly peruses the house for something, anything to fix or repair. She is a master baker, gardener and seamstress. He is a master woodworker, tool maker and farmer. And they love Jesus.
64 years of marriage. 8 children. 34 grandchildren. 18 great-grandchildren. One God.
I want that kind of love.
A few weeks ago, my Baba and Dido visited the East Coast and I got to spend some time with them. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, my friend (and talented photographer) Rosina Waszaj joined me in my hometown, where we took a trip to the ice cream parlor on Main Street — the same place I frequented as a kid. We all sat and chatted and enjoyed the best homemade ice cream on the Eastern Seaboard.
And I couldn’t help but feel blessed. And grateful. And challenged to not settle for anything less than a love like theirs.
P.S. Want more of Baba and Dido? I interviewed them this past summer about their take on love, marriage and why I’m still single. Watch it here.