An older cousin of mine came through the greeting line downstairs where the reception was being held after the wedding. Once she said it, she realized what she had said, but my classmates standing next to me had a great time with it. I immediately responded, well, we have been going together for three and a half years and engaged for six months — and I almost said, and she is not pregnant.  The Cousin was talking about the short amount of time we had to do the preparations for the wedding with only a few weeks from October to December.  I always wondered how many of the wedding attendees were surprised when that first baby didn’ t come until over three and a half years later.

The wedding itself was as beautiful as any, even though it was done on a very low budget.  We were old enough that we didn’t really expect our parents to provide lots of money for it.  Mary Ann’s parents did take care of the reception.  It was a cake and punch reception in the downstairs of the church.  The cake was baked by a sister-in-law who was a phenomenal baker.  She made wedding cakes out of her home as  a small business.  That was her wedding present to us.  Mary Ann’s Mother was an excellent seamstress. She made the wedding dress, and (I think) the bridesmaid’s dresses.  Since it was Christmas the Bridesmaid’s dresses were red velvet.  Since we couldn’t afford flowers, they held white muffs.  The church was decorated for Christmas with trees and lights.  We did provide a couple of flower arrangements (or somebody did), as well as the flowers Mary Ann held.

Instead of a photograper, one of our friends just took slides of the wedding.  We did rent tuxes, at $5 each.  I think that was the going rate during those years.  We decided that there would be no family members in the wedding other than Mary Ann’s Niece Diana.  At thirteen she was the oldest of all the Nephews and Nieces and especially close to Mary Ann.  Since we were both the youngest in our families with a total of seven older siblings, all married and with children, we knew we could not ask some and not others — so we just asked none of them.  Anyway, if Mary Ann’s brothers had been in the wedding, who knows what those Mizel boys would have pulled.

After the wedding and reception, we packed up our stuff, including all the presents and headed off for our exotic honeymoon.  It was the Joliet Inn, a very ordinary motel in Joliet, Illinois, although it did have a Honeymoon Suite — a room with a four poster bed, otherwise like any other room.  Joliet was about an hour from Aurora.  We decided to go crazy and instead of driving all the way to St. Louis (only about a five hour drive) we stopped at the Lamplighter Inn in Springfield, Illinois, another very ordinary motel, possessing no honeymoon suite.  That was the extent of our exotic honeymoon. (…but just wait)

Mary Ann had insisted on taking the presents back with us unopened so that she could take her time opening them in our first apartment in St. Louis.  She got some grief from a few folks who wanted to see that ritual.

There we were, Mary Ann, me, the presents and the cockroaches.  Somewhere I have the picture of Mary Ann in her bra and girdle (it was the 60’s) standing on a chair, while I crushed a cockroach with her shoe.  It was so big, at first we thought it was a mouse.  The cockroach was fully as long as the heal on her loafer, the weapon of choice. It was a first floor apartment in an old, but stately looking building.  We were just about the only Gentiles in the building.  There was a Mezuzah on the doorframe from the last owner. A Mezuzah is a little container with a tiny scroll in it with what is called the Shema, written in Hebrew.  I still have it somewhere.

The was good news and bad news about being in a first floor apartment.  It was easier to carry things into, and it was cooler in the summer than the third floor apartments.  The bad news is that all the cockroaches living in the basement had easy access and could be heard running around the kitchen during the night.  Getting up at night and turning on a light in the kitchen was a pretty frightening experience.

We were located in an especially beautiful area of St. Louis, just off Wydown boulevard. One of the prettiest pictures we have of Mary Ann is of her face in the middle of a flowering Crabapple in full bloom in the wide median of the bouldevard. Just north of us were huge homes of the very wealthy.  There was a nice Jewish deli and grocery near the apartment, which for some reason did not have a pound of bacon when I went there to get it. I wonder what that was about??  The Velvet Creme Ice Cream store was not far, so we were all right in that regard.

About two weeks after we were married, I came home from Clark Peeper Office supplies where I worked part time all three of the Seminary years we were in St. Louis, and I knew immediately when I saw her face what had happened.  There were tears streaming down her cheeks.  The phone call had come telling her that her Dad just died.  He had been suffering from Nephritis (Kidney Disease) for some time, and was very weak but determined to walk her down the aisle at the wedding.

That was a terribly difficult time for everyone, especially all the Mizel family.  Mary Ann was very close to her Dad.  She and her Mom were just enough alike that they were sometimes at odds with one another.  While Mary Ann could never seem to please her Mom, she was the apple of her Dad’s eye.  It was hard for Mary Ann to deal with that so far away from the rest of the family.

Getting married was very good for my grades.  They shot up to what I had been accustomed to getting almost immediately.  I remember that the first summer we were married was very lonely.  Since there were almost no other married students staying in St. Louis for the summer, and we knew no one else.  We spent many a lonely Friday evening wishing we had friends to do things with.

That summer also included one of the best experiences we had in our years with each other. It turned out to be the honeymoon of our dreams.  More about that tomorrow.

Today began with an early walk again.  It is encouraging that I was able to actually appreciate the beauty of the cool morning, the clouds, the birds.  Each morning that I have walked, there have been some moments without pain, moments that at least suggest the possibility of some level of healing some time in the future.

I came back to do the usual morning chores, providing a bit of order to my day.  I ran to the bank for a moment, but otherwise worked on thank you notes.  It is a slow process, but satisfying.  It draws me into a sense of community and belonging as I think about the people in the stands who have been cheering us on especially during the last years of our journey together.

Eddie came, picked me up, and we headed to the Red Lobster for lunch.  Eddie lost his wife to Alzheimer’s many years ago.  He is now very happily married again to a favorite of Mary Ann and me, Carol.  Eddie has been helpful to me whenever we have talked.  He has questions that help me process what we have been through as I try to respond and make sense of it.  The common experience makes it far easier to trust and be open about what went on and how each of us dealt with it.

I returned to meet with a furnace installer to arrange for an upgrade to a high efficiency unit with a segback thermostat.  That will be installed about a month from now.  The afternoon and evening has again brought with it more of the painful moments.  I have chosen to try to keep from winding down into the deep sadness that has a steady presence in me.  It was a little difficult to keep the sadness at baywhen looking at pictures that helped me remember some of the details of the wedding.  That was so long ago.  Both Mary Ann and I have commented that we had the sensation that we were looking over our own shoulders watching ourselves go through the motions at the wedding.

For now, I hope to get to bed a little early and get to sleep.  The mornings are better and the evenings worse, so my goal is to shorten the evenings and lengthen the mornings.

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