Amy Q. Barker
Punk: News from the Great Beyond
Updated: Jan 26, 2021
Was it just a break-up?
After I published Punk, my aunt went digging into my grandmother's documents. She found a bunch of poems and other writings that seem to imply that grandma and Paul broke-up. If that is true, then it solves the mystery and makes me feel sad for her, but not as sad as the devastating fate I imagined in Punk for both of them.
Still, to be twenty and in love and to think (with all your heart) that you are going to marry someone, and then to have it all fall apart. It must have been horrible. Reading her poems (like her poem in the photo above), I feel like she was somewhat resigned to the fact that it wasn't going to work out, but I'm sure it was still difficult to face that reality. In the 30s, I think it was quite common (and rather expected) that you meet, fall in love, and marry very young, if for no other reason than to reduce your family's financial burden. In Punk, I describe the straps that Paul was in, and his family--this is true of the real Paul as well, according to my grandmother's diary. I believe some of the reason it didn't work out with them was because they didn't have the means to move forward and be together as an independent married couple. To that point, here is another poem my aunt found, written in my grandmother's hand, but clearly describing Paul's sentiments:
So broke, so broke
But happy at times
In love, in love
We could be happier with dimes
I want you for my very own
To wed and call you mine alone
But I want to be able to take care of you
To give you everything fine and new
Oh, I'm so broke!
May heaven help me find a way
To earn a living someday
I'm willing to work at any old thing
Just for the money and happiness it will bring
I love you and I vow
I will wed you somehow
Though I'm so broke right now
My aunt hasn't uncovered any information between 1933 and a few years later when grandma met my grandpa, so that time period is still a mystery. I imagine she was grieving the loss of Paul and the love they shared. I wonder if Paul was still part of her friend group and how uncomfortable that must have been. I also wonder if her break-up had any influence on her ultimately meeting and marrying my grandpa. Was she totally over Paul by then? Was she afraid to fall in love again? What was she up to during this period? Was she feeling pressure to get married because she was older? And I wonder, what ever happened to Paul? Did he find a job? Did he move back to PA? Did he end up marrying someone else?
I guess there are some things we'll never know. One thing I do know, though, is that my grandma and grandpa went on to have a long and happy marriage together (despite grandma's earlier heartache with Paul, or maybe because of it). Life is like that sometimes: A heartbreak that teaches us what isn't going to bring us happiness, so that we know how to find it, grasp it, and cherish it when it does come along.