A long, long time ago, in the green, forested hills of a faraway kingdom, there lived a beautiful lass named Meridel. Her stepfather the kindly Duke had fallen in love with Meridel’s impoverished mother and moved her to his land, just a short time before. The Duke had wooed Lady Beatrice and won her heart and it was his pleasure to give young Meridel, and her four siblings, the futures they hadn’t dared to dream of before.
But Meridel had a stubborn heart. She did not want to take from her stepfather and only begrudgingly admitted that he was a good man who loved her family.
There was a prince in this land, who saw the beautiful and stubborn Meridel and wanted to soften her heart with his love. He had little to offer, but his ability to work hard, for the kingdom was not magnificent or rich. To Prince Edward’s delight, Meridel encouraged his attentions. But it wasn’t just because Meridel longed to be independent of the Duke. Prince Edward’s shy charm, and skills on the field of battle would have won a harder heart than hers.
A dark cloud rolled over the land of the lovers. War was swiftly approaching and though Prince Edward, his friends, and Meridel’s own brothers were young men, they were called away to fight. Edward was to go on a ship that would send him far across the world.
With little time left, he approached the Duke and Lady Beatrice and asked for Meridel’s hand.
He was confident that he would be accepted. Prince Edward had a bright future. The Duke and the King (Edward’s father) were dear friends. Meridel herself had shown her mind in the matter. All that stood in the way of a lifetime of love was the war, which he was determined to survive.
But like the frigid bite of icy wind from the North, Meridel’s mother spoke caution to his petition.
“Why would you marry my daughter?” she asked. “Meridel is 18 and the doctors say she hasn’t two full years left to live. Her heart is too weak.”
The prince was a champion on the tournament field, but that was nothing to the coming war. Likewise, to leave without making Meridel his wife was more terrifying than the thought of losing her in two years. And so he said that. He said, “If all she has is two years, than I want to be married to her for two years.”
And so Edward and Meridel were married.
The war raged around them, but at the end of it Edward came home safely and found that his wife did have a stubborn heart, and was waiting for him when the ship brought him home. Her stubborn heart kept her going until a doctor came to the land who was able to heal her.
Prince Edward loved his Meridel until his own heart gave out, after only 25 years of marriage. But her stubborn heart never did give up. So her two years turned into 70 and she lives in a tower now, with children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren who love her still.
Edward and Meridel are my grandparents. The Kingdom in the hills is the logging community of Kinzua, Oregon, which was torn down in the 1970′s. The Duke was one of the bosses of the company town, my Great Grandfather O. D. Baker and the King was one of the town founders, my other Great Grandfather Mel Wham.
The tournaments were the baseball games, where Edward was a star. The war was The War. The doctor performed open heart surgery on my grandma, making her the second person in Oregon to have the surgery and extending her life decades longer than anyone could have expected.
Edward died of a heart attack at 49, in 1970 and never had to see his Kingdom disappear.