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Seth Fleischauer, 25, interviews his grandfather William Jacobs, 83

Recorded in New York City

William Jacobs remembers a visit from his future mother-in-law while he was recuperating from a car accident during World War II.

William Jacobs: A nurse came into my room and she said, "Lieutenant, you have a visitor." And, I said, "Who's that?" And she said, "A Mrs. Gropper." Gropper was Claire's last name, so I thought she must have misunderstood Miss for Mrs. So I said, "Is she an old lady or young?" And she said, "Well, I guess I would call her old." And I said, "Well tell her to come in." And in comes Claire's mother.

She said, "Billy, I have to tell you some things. I heard Claire on the telephone last night saying how happy she was, and she's talking about how you're going to have babies and so on and so forth. I have to tell you something." I said, "What is that, Mrs. Gropper?" And she said, "Claire cannot have children." And she went on to give me some details of how when Claire was five years old, she was in the hospital and some doctor had erred rather severely. She never made Claire aware of this, and she wanted me to know this, and wanted to know if I was willing to marry her anyhow.

I said, "Yes, Mrs. Gropper, I am ready to marry her anyhow." And she took a deep breath and she said, "Billy, I want to ask you something else. Will you be willing to adopt children? Because I know Claire would love to have children." And I said, "Yes, Mrs. Gropper, I would be glad to adopt children, and I would do so." She was very relieved and she said, "I only have one other question, Billy. How are we going to tell Claire?" And I said, "Mrs. Gropper, I will tell her myself on our wedding night." And that's what happened.

Seth Fleischauer: Throughout my life you've been a source of inspiration to me, and I think the biggest thing you did in my life was the dedication I saw you give to Grandma in those last seven or eight years that she had Alzheimer's. Seeing that example of true love and true dedication, especially for someone like me, a child of divorce, that's the biggest thing that you've brought to me in my life.

William: Thank you, Seth. I found it absolutely painless taking care of her, so I guess I did have true love for her. Never for a minute did I think, "God, when is this going to be over?" I never, ever thought that. In fact, I find that since she's died, I've kind of been floundering and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I find this period to be much more unsatisfactory than all of those years of caring for her. I just didn't find it that much of a burden at all.

Seth: I think that's what was so remarkable about it for me. Thank you very much for doing this, Grandpa. This was really great and unexpected. I know I'd heard these stories before, but in this setting it was very special.

William: Well, It was very special for me, Seth. I just loved doing it. And just looking at you and answering you, with your eyes looking into mine and mine into yours, it's just great.

Seth: I love you, Grandpa.

William: Thank you, Seth. I love you, too.

July 15, 2005

Excerpted from Listening Is an Act of Love: A Celebration of American Life from the StoryCorps Project. Edited and with an Introduction by Dave Isay. Reprinted by arrangement with The Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright (c) November, 2007.

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