A Love Story

Orpha I. Wood was born in 1885, exact date and place is unknown.  Her childhood was that of a normal child until at the age of 11 she lost her hearing from a very high fever.  She entered Brown Hall School for the Deaf in Flint, MI in or about 1896.  She became very adept at sign language and could sign with both hands and was so skilled at lip-reading that very few people even knew that she was deaf.

She and William David Harrington were the parents of one daughter, Jean Elizabeth Harrington, born in Chicago in 1920.  Harrington was a married man with a wife and five children living in Southern Illinois.  A grandson of the wife (John David Harrington of Overland, MO) and a granddaughter of Orpha (Shirley Joan Hughes of Hartselle, AL) have tried to piece together the story from correspondence and other research.  John's comments of March 18, 2002 follows:

Now, we have reached a summation of what information cousin Shirley Hughes and I have of Grandfather William David Harrington and her grandmother, Orpha I. Wood.  We can only surmise (imagine) the rest of the story.  And knowing something about "O" (Orpha) and "W" (William David), I kind of get the idea that we could incur some wrath, or at least a strong disapproval from this, independent, strong-willed couple for "sticking our noses" into their private lives.  Or, we could be mistaken and they might not mind so much if we try to tell the story of "O" and "W", as we do so with much love and respect.  After all, did we not only receive our life from them, along with our natural curiosity and zest for adventure?  So we apologize, "O" and "W" if we rile you up a bit, after all, isn't it all your fault anyway?

What can we surmise from what we know?  "Maybe," back a long time ago, they met, either at one of the printing schools where grandfather was employed as a printing instructor or, more likely in a print shop where Orpha worked as a typesetter perhaps where William D. was either editor, owner or just a business professional acquaintance or customer of the owners.  Either way, they did meet.  Orpha I. Wood was an intelligent, skillful professional in the printing trades, and a striking, tall and very attractive woman, very strong-willed and outspoken, and it's not difficult that William D. was "taken" with her.  Although married at that time, he must have found her irresistible; they had, no doubt, much in common.  Grandfather William D. Harrington was a handsome man, endowed with the same manner of mind as Orpha and they must have had the chemistry that brings a man and a woman together.  I think the term "soul mates" might be appropriate.  It is not my place to judge, condemn or approve; my duty, as I see it is to record.

They must have had a bittersweet relationship, I surmise, as almost invariably lovers do, no doubt torn between commitments and the desire, so strong, to be together.  There must have been many times when the longing to be together when they knew it couldn't be, had to be painful, mixed with the bliss that only those who are in love can know.  Times of guilt, recrimination and doubt of the wrong or right of it, and conversely times of reckless abandon in the pursuit of their happiness in being together.  They were, in summation, just two human beings with desires, and needs that they could only have fulfilled in each others' arms.

And surmising further, how they must have been torn between the joy, and the unforeseen dangers ahead of finding that their love had produced a child.  The joy and pride any father feels for his children and the knowledge that there would be danger in the days to come.

We now must consider a thing called "honor".  Of the mother Orpha who gave birth to the child, Jean Elizabeth on September 21, 1920, in Chicago, IL.  She raised her, cared for her despite the risk of condemnation of those times, not without great difficulty.  And grandfather, honored his commitment to care for them, as much as he could, and there is no doubt that he loved them both, and they had their share of hard times, she with the hardship of a single mother with a child to raise and care for in a time when this was no doubt a "taboo" happening, and he, longing to be the father of his daughter, and probably knowing down deep inside he could never be, and as it turned out lost them both as Orpha, out of necessity had to "get on" with her life, marrying another man and providing a home for them both.  Maternal instinct being I believe the strongest of human emotions.  So they parted, somewhere in their time, leaving a deep hole in their souls, accepting as best they could that life is a pathway of many, many bends and turns, and we must tread that pathway, not as we will, but as fate decides.  After many years, grandfather "found" his daughter; we aren't privileged to know how, and re-established a relationship with her, a grown woman with a daughter of her own, my cousin and co-author of this writing.

Was this an affair, or a love story?  Here is a poem that Orpha wrote to William:

            "A Valentine"


Dear, if in day-times busy hour,

This cruel absence may be borne;

I still from ev'ning shrink and cower,

And wait impatiently the morn;

For morning comes with work again,

The saving toil for hand and mind;

(Yet think I often, even then, how great

you love is! and how kind).

But evening! -- such friends we had,

Alone at home, along the shore;

Of starlit lake -- how sweet and glad,

That "clear togetherness of you"!

But now what hope! what joy can bless?

Since my misspent and wasted years;

Reward your trust and tenderness,

And moral lon'liness with tears?

By day, by night, at work, at rest,

Tears, tears that taunt me, and I fear;

Because you loved so truly, lest,

My love unworthy shall appear.

One prayer I pray, all prayers above,

For life, still human, more divine;

For love more worthy than the great

you gave to me, Dear Valentine.

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