|My Uncle Jerry and Aunt Marlyce on their 60th wedding anniversary|
Saturday night Mike & I attended a sixtieth wedding anniversary party for my aunt and uncle, Marlyce & Jerry Hoerig. The party began with a Mass at which they were recognized by the priest, along with another couple celebrating (only) fifty years. During the Mass I sat behind my aunt and uncle, and at one point I noticed my cousin Linda, their daughter, gently stroking her mother's back.
I felt a pang. I haven't been able to give my mom a touch or hug or even a glance for 33 years. She died at age 48, along with my dad and brother, in a car accident. Jerry & Marlyce were great friends with my folks. After Mass, at the party, Marlyce told me that she had started to tear up at Mass thinking about my folks. She said that Linda told her those were "happy tears."
They weren't. I had them, too.
After Mass, Jerry & Marlyce treated us all to a dinner at Perkins. ("Hey Jerry, I ordered off the senior menu - I saved you three bucks" - my husband, Mike.) Then we all drove to their house where we talked and laughed and sang oldies to my cousin Claude's guitar until almost midnight. (He kept blowing on his fingertips - he's fallen out of practice but he did great & his 20-something daughter was his best singing companion. "I can't believe they don't run screaming from the room when you drag out these old songs," I told Claude. He explained, "We sang 'em around the campfire. Oldies were the first songs she ever knew.")
I looked through Jerry & Marlyce's wedding album - from 1951. There was my young aunt, looking like a movie actress, wearing something borrowed - my mother's wedding dress. I kick myself for not thinking of bringing the dress along that night. It's up in my attic. I'm sure my little aunt could fit right into it. As I looked through the album, I realized that all the people in the wedding party are dead, as well as many of the other people in the photos. I found myself blinking hard.
Claude, the oldest child of Jerry & Marlyce, rewrote the lyrics to "You are my sunshine" in his parents' honor. We all had song sheets and sang the words loud and strong with big smiles, but every time the chorus came along, I had to fight back tears. I looked at Jerry & Marlyce and they looked fraught with emotion also. I have never felt more happysad in my life.
Uncle Jerry was my mother's two-years-older brother and best friend growing up. They milked cows together on the farm in St. Michael's, Wisconsin. They cut the grass together in the church cemetery. Later, Uncle Jerry was my dad's best fishing buddy. He was my so-handsome godfather and the handy carpenter who finished our little Milwaukee Cape Cod basement (creating a REC ROOM - 50s chic). Aunt Marlyce was the aunt who was always interested in what we kids were doing. She'd leave adult parties to come and chat over the cousins' board games or our silly games of "Telephone." Jerry & Marlyce took ballroom dance classes with my folks & some other friends and relatives. We have great movies of them all dancing in Jerry & Marlyce's rec room. They were also avid square dancers for many years.
"They take care of themselves," my cousin Mike told us that night. Mike lives nearby. "Jerry goes to the men's club and pumps iron. They walk the halls at the high school." Aunt Marlyce does acrylic painting. Jerry is into everything current & sends emails to all of us.
Jerry & Marlyce are ALIVE.
I often wonder what my folks would be like in their 80s. I'd like to think that they would be like Jerry & Marlyce.
Happy anni, Uncle Jerry & Aunt Marlyce. I love you.
Here are Claude's slightly-fractured lyrics to "You are my sunshine" -
You are my sunshine my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You’ll never know dear how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away
We were married 60 years ago dear
And we’ve been happy ever since that day
We celebrate dear with our family
Happy an-ni-ver-sa-ry today
We have 3 children in our life dear
And they gave us 7 grand kids
And with Logan and Harlow
We celebrate with you today
Where have the years gone my sweet darling
From that first day I called you mine
60 years of living with you darling
And I still can call you mine