Love Stories

Monday, June 12, 2006

Today is the anniversary of my sister and her husband. I think it's 12 years, but it could be 13. I'm pretty sure it's 12 because Thomas is 7 and they had him 5 years in. As usual, my motto is "I was told there would be no math," so if I'm wrong...oh well.

I tried to post this two weekends ago, but MySpace was acting strange and changing the apostrophes into question marks, dumping all the quotation marks, and other strangeness. Aside from that, I also waited for a website to post some pictures I could link to, but when the site finally did, they were restricted photos. Oh well. Today seems a fitting day to try here's what I wrote two weekends ago, on my way to Vegas.

As I type this, I'm in the backseat of a car (okay, SUV) on my way to a wedding in Vegas (VEGAS!). These nuptials concern my cousin, Chris, and his fiancée, Molly. The story of how Chris and Molly met is an interesting one, to me at least.

But first, I wouldn't be me without a relatable digression. The particulars of how a couple met, fell in love, and decided on a life together is often of interest to women, but the minutiae is rarely appealing to men. I, being a romantic, am a nine-year old girl when it comes to this kind of stuff. I love hearing all the details. And I've heard some great stories in the past.

My dad and his girlfriend Rebecca, for example. They were high school sweethearts. In 1959 or so, his parents picked up and left Pittsburg for Los Angeles, and took their offspring with them. So my dad had to break up with Becky. Out here in LA, he met my mom (though I strangely can never recall the details of THAT meeting) and they got married and procreated my sister and me (in that order). After about 13 years, my mom and dad had some trouble, she left this life, and he remarried. After about another 13 years, my step-mom and dad divorced.

In the course of putting his heart back together, he found letters that he and Rebecca had exchanged over the years, just keeping in touch every now and then. She too had been married twice, divorced twice, and she'd produced three children. After living in a few different places of the world, she was back in Pittsburgh, her children grown. He reached out to her to pick back up on their correspondence, which had been intermittent at best over the course of the past 25+ years.

The spark that had perhaps never really faded reignited and they fell in love all over again. There were trying times for them for a few years, but they worked through it. We wondered if they would make it official with marriage, but they never have bothered. They live together in Clairton (about 15 miles out of Pittsburgh) with a bigger-than-usual Yorkie pup named Rocco...high school sweethearts, separated for 30 years and reunited. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. They’ve now been back together for about 13 years...yeah yeah I know, but there’s no doubt this will last. They’re both retired, and happily stuck with each other.

Chris and Molly have an even more touching story, because a deep loss led to how they met. My Aunt Betty, Chris' mother, had been sick...during one of her doctor's appointments, they found cancer and scheduled her for emergency surgery. There was a reasonable chance she would not survive the procedure, but they wanted to give it a shot, and she was in agreement. Best case, she would get a few more years. Worst case, she would join her beloved husband Tom, a cancer survivor himself from years before, but who was taken by a sudden heart attack in December of '97.

Tom and Betty had six grown children, four boys and two girls. Chris is the second youngest, the one who seemed like HE would leave this life a bachelor. Chris took his father's passing very hard. It was because of that experience that when his mother was sick, it was 'easier' for him. Betty understood what she was getting into, and they had time to prepare and discuss it all. Chris was with her the whole time, and helped her make some preparations ahead of time. Chris actually lived with his mother at home after his father passed away, so they were each other's rock.

The surgery went well, in that they removed a grapefruit-sized tumor from her intestines. As good a job as the doctors did, her body handled it as so much trauma. They kept her in the ICU, and our large extended family (I’ve got as many cousins as there are cell phones in China) was contacted and told that she might not last the week. We flocked to the hospital.

There, we saw that our ailing Betty was attended to by a wonderful staff of doctors and nurses, one an attractive redhead who was very attentive both to Betty and our large family’s concerns. You could easily guess her name, but I’ve babbled long enough that I wouldn’t blame you for forgetting: Molly.

Within two days, Betty was received at the Home of all who believe in the everlasting power of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and it was standing room only in that ICU room when it happened. I, strangely, decided to run out to my car to get something, even wondering if she would pass while I did so...and she did. I wasn’t in the room, but was glad to be able to stand by her bedside and speak words of comfort in the Lord to her before she went. I can only assume she heard and understood me, and that what I spoke was also pleasing to the Lord and lined up with his Spirit and Truth.

Before she left, there were many lighthearted moments in that room. Get that many siblings and cousins who have a genuine affection for each other together, and there’s bound to be some hilarious reminiscing. Some of those moments included Chris’ sisters (and my sister and me) teasing him about how attractive the nurse was, and how he should get her number. We even joked that he should do it before Betty passed, so she could at least go seeing her perennial bachelor son WITH someone. This family has always found ways to lessen the burden of heavy moments.

And during the pensive moments, Molly was a treasure. Any time she came in, she explained to us what she was doing, and when it came time to shut off a few machines and let Betty breathe on her own (which she did, for a while), she was caring and tactful. She laughed with us showing that big wonderful smile; and she cried with us, with genuine tears.

Later, at Betty’s funeral, I was once again honored to speak at the request of my cousins. I had given a eulogy for my Uncle Tom years before, but this time, unlike previously, I had Christ with me; and so my perspective was much different. Before I spoke, I read a lovely and touching card Molly had written to the family, because she was unable to attend. In it, she expressed how touched she felt by our large but tight family. She had never seen a small ICU room so packed with loving relatives. It was interesting how mutually we had affected each other. My cousins sent her a gift basket with a spa day as a Thank You for her caring involvement with the difficult event. In the ICU we had joked that our younger cousin Leslie would deliver it and drop a hint that Chris was interested in her, but after the fact, I guess that plan was abandoned. The reality the aftermath brought just made it seem inappropriate.

But some months later, Molly came across a patient file she had to followed up on, and called Chris’ sister Sandra. The patient‘s name was Betty, but it was a different Betty, and somehow wires had gotten crossed and phone numbers or files mixed up. I’m not sure if Sandra took that opportunity to set up the date or what, but Chris and Molly went out. (Sorry, ladies, I’m fuzzy on the details.)

She came to the annual Fourth of July Fry Family Reunion in Big Bear (we have two major reunions each year, as you’ll see); and a few months later, Molly moved in with Chris in the house he used to share with his mother. The house was getting a major remodel when Betty went into the hospital. She never came home to see it; but, in a way, Molly returned in her stead. And in December of 2004, Chris and Molly hosted the annual Fry Christmas Party Reunion in the house that had hosted many many Thanksgivings and Christmas reunions in previous decades. We joke that though Betty never got to see her bachelor son really WITH Molly, much less betrothed to him, she helped pick out the woman he would later choose to spend the rest of his life with. Good choice, Aunt Betty.

For the girls...Chris proposed to Molly at the end of a jetty (they live in Oceanside, CA and Chris has always been a harbor-rat) as the sun set. She had left a friends house and was heading home, he was heading to the friend’s house to catch her...their cars passed and he called her cell and said, "Was that you?" "Yep." "Turn around and meet me at the jetty." I don’t recall what he said in the retelling, but it was something about the beautiful view and he could spend the rest of his life with her there, and then pulled out the ring and asked her to make it so. Some tellings have him nearly breaking his ankle on the rocks, but they returned home unscathed and stupid happy.

Many of us in the family are pleased with this coupling. We’re also still a little thrown for a loop about it...I mean, we really figured Chris would just end up never committing to anyone. We’d given up hope on the boy. I guess Betty hadn’t.

I know this was long. I know there was more info than necessary in some cases. But that’s me. I just think some stories are better told when the bigger picture is explored, and the deeper connection made. Not all stories, but some. The better love stories, in my estimation, are worth it. I hope this one was.

Thanks for driving to Vegas with me. Well, Barstow at least. (VEGAS!)

This pic was taken by my cousin Mallory. (Thanks, Mal!)