Old Guy has had a good relationship with my mother-in-law, Gerry Behling, during the past 35 years. It's my opinion that such a statement can be somewhat rare in families these days. So it is all the more meaningful that I am able to make it.
But, how could I not? After all, she brought my beautiful Still-Young Bride into this world. Gerry and her husband, Willard, raised my beloved in a home filled with love, discipline and fun. And Gerry made sure that Still-Young Bride would not be alone, surrounding her during the years with five younger brothers.
It's to that lively family that I was drawn as a Young Guy. Thus, it was after the first year of marriage that I convinced Young Bride, whom I first met at the Rockford (Ill.) Washer Laundromat one lonely Sunday afternoon, to move with me about 200 miles north, back to her hometown of Marshfield. It took some convincing, let me tell you, for Young Bride had had her sights set on Florida well before Young Guy came along.
I'm pretty sure it was the day we moved into our Marshfield apartment, although it might have been earlier, that Gerry Behling decided that Young Guy was all right in her book. That this bearded and (at times) bedraggled would-be hippie whom her daughter had decided to marry might just work out in the long run. After all, hadn't I just brought her daughter back to town?
Not that Gerry and I haven't had our disagreements in the intervening years. Oh, we most certainly have. Our disagreements have, on more than one occasion, required my leaving the Behling home and retreating to the sanctuary of whatever car I had driven, to cool off for a period of time, for fear of saying something that I couldn't take back. And when I returned, to Gerry's credit, it seemed that the argument already was forgotten.
Yes, things actually have worked out in the long run.
Thankfully, it has been a long run for everyone involved. And I do believe not a one of us would change a thing.
Well, we might change one thing. We might ask for more time with Gerry Behling.
You see, this matriarch of the Behling family, this rock who has stood firm against all trials and tribulations, is now preparing for her journey to meet God in heaven. To her credit as a strong woman, she's not going all that willingly, though she has no doubt that she'll be welcomed there. No, she has participated in every physical therapy that the Marshfield Care Center offers, while she still has the strength to join in, in hopes of one more miracle from God.
But even if that miracle doesn't occur, Gerry knows that, instead, she'll be doubly blessed as she is wrapped in the arms of her maker, whom she accepted as a young woman, and in the arms of her husband, whom she also accepted as a young woman, and who has been waiting for her there since 1997. Such is the strength of her faith.
Still-Young Bride has inherited that faith (and, thankfully, passed it on to Old Guy). That's why she is spending as much time as she can with her mom these days. Some of Gerry's days are bright and sunny, filled with good conversation, memories and laughter. Others are gray and cloudy, occupied more by rounds of sleep and nostalgic dreams that foretell the journey to come.
All are the days that add up to 82 years in the life of this amazing woman.
Your prayers for Gerry this holiday season will be ever appreciated by Still-Young Bride and me.
Steve Raap is a columnist for Gannett Central Wisconsin Media.