This past week, my Spanish teacher required the class to write an essay about amor prohibido, or “forbidden love”. The assignment was given after we read a story about a prince and a princess from different lands who fell in love but were unable to live out their lives together because of their parents’ disapproval of the relationship.
My classmates and I were charged with writing a paper on a story of forbidden love in our own families. While considering my options, I got to thinking about what a prominent issue this has been, and still is, across every corner of the world. There is no minimum of outside influences at work, impeding the natural course of love. At first, I had absolutely no idea who to write about but after some help from my mother, I realized I had the perfect story to share.
Joseph Evan Cartwright and Mary Ellen Hanratty were my great-grandparents. Joseph was from Scotland, and they lived in Liverpool, England. They had three daughters: my great aunts Kathleen and Mary, and my grandmother, Eva.
During World War II, my grandfather, Dominic, was sent to Belgium. He always wanted to visit England, and so on one weekend leave, he convinced some buddies to go to Liverpool. A major port at that time, and now, the city was a popular destination for American GIs due to Liverpool’s status as the entry point to Europe for many American ships and soldiers, and transportation to and from Liverpool was always easily available to the American men stationed in Europe. It was there that he met my grandmother, Eva Teresa Cartwright. He was 20 years old, and she was 16.
He told me one time that from the first moment he saw my grandmother, he knew that they were meant to be together. But after that weekend, he returned to Belgium. From then on, they communicated only through letters and poems that my grandmother kept all her life.
My grandmother always told us that my grandfather never proposed formally. They just knew that they would get married someday. One weekend, he finally returned to Liverpool to ask my grandfather for my grandmother’s hand in marriage. Joseph rejected his request, firmly and without discussion.
My great-grandfather opposed the marriage because he didn’t care for American guys. He thought that Americans came to England and married their women, separating them from their families to live in the United States. Consequently, my grandmother had to make all the preparations for the wedding herself, and in secret. To add to the sadness, England had ration cards and she had to get the food on the black market.
The date for the marriage was set for December 22, 1945. They say that it was a very cold day and very few guests came. But this wedding’s biggest disaster was that my grandmother had to walk down the aisle alone because her father had refused to hand her over to my grandfather. After the ceremony, the new couple went to my great-grandparents’ house to pay their respects.
When they arrived, my great-grandmother (who did attend the wedding) told my grandfather, “Joseph, your son-in-law is here,” to which he responded in his authoritarian Scottish brogue: “Son-in-law? I have no son-in-law.” It was then that my grandfather lost his temper and spoke up. He told him that if he had a problem with Americans, then he could take it, but it was not fair of him to treat his own daughter so heartlessly.
When the war ended, my grandparents went to live in San Antonio, Texas, where my grandfather was now stationed. My grandmother returned to England many times to visit her family, but my grandfather never returned. After a few years, they moved to Rochester, New York, and had 5 children. They lived happily for 56 years together. My grandmother Eva died on October 21, 2001 and my grandfather Dominic, on June 29, 2013. During the 12 years that my grandfather lived without my grandmother, he never forgot his first and only love.