I was watching TV on a recent Sunday afternoon and my favorite episode of "Sex and the City" came on. Now, I know some people don't like this show, but personally I find it very realistic of the way that women think and what they want. I always enjoyed Carrie's musings at the end of each episode. The particular episode that I am referring to is the episode that was aired after 9/11 called I Heart NY. At the end of the show the character says the following "Seasons change, so do cities. People come into your life and people go, but it’s comforting to know: the ones you love are always in your heart and if you’re very lucky, a plane ride away."
That quote hit home for me one day last week when I got a call from my neighbor when I was growing up. Joe is just a little older than I am, I do his and his wife's taxes every year. Joe's parents and mine lived next door to each other. His mom, Vera lost her husband, Cecil in 1987. I had always loved Cecil and he had a filled a fatherly type of role in my life at times. After Cecil's passing, I knew that Vera was quite lonely and I kind of made it my mission to find someone for her. That's how she came to meet and marry her current husband, Gene.
I knew Gene from when I worked at the shipyard. Gene was a crane operator and I worked around him quite a bit when I needed riggers to get equipment on the ship for me. It was December of 1988 and I had went into the trailer where the crane operators were to arrange to get some equipment on board the USS Saratoga, which was the aircraft carrier that we were both working on. We were all making some small talk and for some reason I asked Gene what he was going to do for the upcoming Christmas holidays. He responded nothing. Then I asked if he had any family nearby and he said no. Of course then that piqued my interest so I asked if he was married and when he replied no, of course my matchmaking instincts went into overdrive.
I promptly started questioning him about different things and when I found out that he came from Alabama, I knew I had hit a home run as Vera was from Alabama too. I immediately asked him if he minded if I fixed him up with a neighbor and for some reason he said sure. Why not! As soon as I walked out the door, I promptly called Vera and told her that I had found her match. She was a little skeptical, but I had them exchange phone numbers and she asked him over the very next morning to have a cup of coffee.
I saw him pull up to her house the next day and was quite impatient to find out how things went. Lo and behold, as soon as Gene left, Vera came out the back door and told my mom and I that she was smitten and was from the first moment that Gene stepped out of his truck. She made the shocking remark "I'm going to marry that man!" and sure enough, three months later in March, they were married. I am happy to say that I ended up being Vera's maid of honor and Gene's brother was the best man at their wedding.
A few months later Butch and I made the decision to get married on September 2, 1989. However, I had somewhat of a dilemma. I had asked my dad to please come to my wedding to walk me down the aisle but my dad has some big issues with people and crowds. I think the biggest issue he had was as he quoted "I am not giving my daughter away. I am not coming to the wedding." He had not even met Butch, refused to come to our house or anything even remotely to meeting him. My dad can just be strange like that. I didn't beg because I knew it wouldn't do any good, so I just kind of resigned myself that this was the way it was going to be.
I thought about asking my brother to do the honor of giving me away but since he was only 17 I kind of shelved that idea too. Then one day when I was mulling things over I realized that Gene would be the perfect person to ask. Vera and another one of my mom's friends, Sharon, were doing my flowers, Sharon's husband Norman was our photographer, who better to ask than Gene to do the honor of walking me down that aisle? I asked him and he promptly said yes. The rest is history as they say. Of course as you can see from the picture below, I was pretty nervous that day as I was holding onto his hand for all I was worth.
A few years later, Gene and Vera moved back to Alabama after Gene retired but they missed our area and came back and settled on the North Carolina coast right over the Virginia line. I last saw Gene about a year ago at a surprise birthday party that Joe and his wife, Ann held for Gene. He was the same Gene as always. Happy, smiling, laughing and just having a good time. Time had passed but Gene had not changed a bit.
I got the call from Joe telling me that Gene recently had been diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer and that it had spread to the brain. He told me that Vera and Gene had decided to go the hospice route and that time was getting short. He said that Gene was bedridden and was not always lucid. I told Joe to please tell Gene that I loved him and to thank him yet again for being there for me on that very special day in every woman's life. I just could not bring myself to go see him in pain that way. I wanted to remember him the way that I always knew him, vibrant, alive......damn, this is so hard.
I have been working on this post for over a week. I got the call yesterday. Gene died at 12:20PM at home. Yes, for everything there is a season. We are born, we live and one day we die. As the quote in the beginning paragraph said "People come into your life and people go, but it’s comforting to know: the ones you love are always in your heart". Gene, you will always be in my heart. Thank you for everything. I love you. As long as I have my memories, you will live on.