“Romance at 7 or 77”
The Love Story of Nana and Erling
By Marcia Ramsland, daughter-in-law to Nana
I was visiting my mother-in-law recovering from hip surgery when I heard her answer the phone with a cheerful lilt in her voice, “Hi, Erling. How are you?” A giggle followed.
Who was Erling that made Nana so happy, I wondered. They talked and talked and Nana was as happy as a junior high school girl with a call from a new boyfriend. This wasn’t like my practical, down to earth mother-in-law at all.
When she got off the phone Nana said with a smile, “That’s Erling. I met him at a funeral here in Illinois when he came up from Florida to play his trumpet for it. We were flower girl and ring bearer 70 years ago at his sister’s wedding and haven’t seen each other since!”
As our conversations about Erling continued over the next few days, Nana asked, “He sent me a basket of fruit for Christmas. What does that mean?”
Not to get her hopes up, I replied, “It’s not too personal of a gift. It’s actually normal to send a fruit basket from Florida.”
But as our conversations continued over the next few weeks, Nana confided in me, “Where do you think we should get married?”
“What?!” I exclaimed. “Has he asked you?”
“No,” Nana replied, “but I know he will.”
Nana had been a practical missionary wife until her husband passed away six years before. She read sweet romance novels like the Midford series at night which may have fueled her romance feelings. Erling had taken care of his sick wife for years until she passed away the year before. They were both widowers, but lived across the country from each other.
After their initial meeting they began corresponding sending back and forth a photos of the other’s family or a Norwegian recipe they both liked.
One day Erling asked Nana, “You’ve been a widow for longer than me. What advice do you have?”
Nana replied, “Advice? Of course I had advice. I told Erling he needed to think about what he wanted to be doing 10 years from now.” He gave that some serious thought and decided he didn’t want to be walking around his empty house talking to himself in 10 years.
About six months later Nana asked again, “Where do you think we should get married?”
I gulped not sure if this was real or fantasy at age 75 years old. She went on to say, “Shall we get married at the family reunion, or my home church I attended before I moved to the retirement home?”
I said I doubted that her deceased husband’s family reunion would be the place to marry even if there were dozens of relatives who loved her. Likewise not too many friends from her church almost 10 years prior to the retirement home would still be there or have a strong connection with her.
After thinking that over Nana said wistfully, “Do you know where my dream wedding would be?”
I tried to imagine where a 75 year widow would envision her dream wedding – Hawaii, Niagara Falls, the Rockies?
She looked up wistfully and smiled. “It would be right here in the Retirement Home garden – down in the little valley surrounded by flowers where my neighbor is the gardener.”
I thought about her age and encouraged her, “Nana, at age 75 you should do your dream wedding!”
Shortly thereafter Erling proposed, wedding plans were set, and both families of relatives were invited to a May wedding. The bride and groom were to ride down the garden valley in a golf cart and have their wedding outdoors in the garden valley.
But the rainy day moved everything inside. It didn’t matter. It was the happiest day for two 75 and 77 year olds! Life, and God, had brought them together 70 years later!
God was good and kindly gave them romance 70 years later as a living example of Jeremiah 33:3 “I know the plan I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”
Nana and Erling were given hope and a future – and so are we all.
Today Nana and Erling are 93 and 95 years old living in the same retirement home in Rockford, Illinois.
After they married they navigated their long distance homes by spending six months in in the winter in Florida at Erling’s home and the spring/summer six months at Nana’s retirement center duplex in Illinois. Erling played the trumpet in three Illinois bands and Nana enjoyed cooking and the winter weather with Erling’s family in Florida.
Eventually they stayed in Illinois and Erling made trips to Florida when Nana couldn’t travel anymore.
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Your Valentine’s Love Story of Nana and Erling is so sweet and inspiring! And it’s so true — God is in control and blesses those who trust in Him!
May the Lord give you many more years of fulfillment in helping people!
God bless you!
Thanks, Judy! Yes, we all need to be inspired by a love story and this one is so real in our family. So glad to share. Yes, I look forward to many more years of helping people.