Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Awful, Terrible, Very Bad Day


October 23, 1976
 
Larry and I are celebrating another anniversary today, number thirty-seven to be exact.  We picked October for our wedding, my favorite month of the year, and the 23rd because he was on break from seminary.  The day was perfect, everything went off without a hitch.  I've heard it said that a wedding isn't all that great unless something goes wrong.  Well, best I can remember, nothing did.  No, most everything that could have gone wrong actually happened before the wedding. 

Two days earlier we had made arrangements to meet someone at a warehouse in Buffalo to purchase the food needed for the reception.  A close friend of the Burkes,  Lorraine had offered to prepare the wedding meal.  It was going to be a big job, we were expecting about two-hundred people. But she was up to it.  She was the head cook at Circle C Ranch,  the Christian camp where I worked and where Larry and I had met. 

Lorraine had come with a list and the three of us immediately began to fill our carts.  She didn't look well,  but I knew she had chronic health issues, so I pushed my concern aside.   Until she suddenly collapsed on the floor of the warehouse.   As she was being lifted onto a stretcher she continued giving Larry last minute instructions as to what still needed to be purchased.  

"You'll need to drive my car," Larry said as we loaded the stuff into his vehicle. Lorraine had given him her keys on the way out to the ambulance.  "We have to take her car to the hospital. You just follow me."  I was nervous.  I had been hit by a drunk a few weeks earlier on the way to my wedding shower.  He had totaled the car and put my mother and sister in the emergency room.  I was still nervous about driving, and the thought of doing it in heavy city traffic made it all the worse.  "How far is it?" I wanted to know.  "Not too far," he insisted.  We were barely out of the parking lot when it began to sleet.  I tried turning on the wipers, but they refused to move.  Oh great.  I remembered that Larry had driven up from Kentucky a few days earlier without the wipers working.  He'd picked my sister Dawn up at college in Ohio and she had spent a good part of the trip with her hand out the window working those stupid wipers! 

To this day, I still don't like following Larry in another vehicle.  He hates red lights and will do everything he can to beat them, gunning through the yellow ones.  With no visibility and no wipers, I was expecting to get clobbered from the side every time I went through an intersection.  When he finally pulled into the entrance of a hospital after what seemed an eternity, I was totally engulfed in sobs.  He hopped out of Lorraine's car and ran back to check on me.  And I let him have it.  He wilted and then humbly apologized before telling me that he'd come to the wrong hospital.  I looked at him in disbelief.  "This is the mental hospital," he told me.  "But we're close.  Honest."

A few minutes later we were standing by Lorraine's bed.  She'd had a gall bladder attack and assured us that we need not worry, she'd be out by the next day and would have everything ready in time.  "You'll need to go to the grocery store tonight and pick up twenty chickens for the chicken salad," she instructed and mentioned a few other items as well. "And then go to the ranch and get the big pots and pans I need." 

A couple of hours later we were standing in the checkout line with our chickens when suddenly the lights flickered and went out.  The cashier looked up apologetically as she proceeded to add up our items by hand.  I looked at Larry and wondered if this day could possibly get any weirder.

It did.  It was snowing hard as we climbed the road that leads to the Ranch entrance.  Our tires were spinning as we pulled up to the dining hall.  I was anxious to get into the kitchen, gather up whatever Lorraine needed and get out of there before the roads got any worse.  But it was too late.  The backseat and trunk now full and heavy with supplies did nothing to prevent the car from sliding into a deep snowbank two or three miles back down that treacherously slippery road.  

It was late.  And dark.  I was tired.  And cold.  There was a farmhouse not too far from where we'd ended up, and in our shoes and thin jackets we walked down the road, climbed the steps and knocked at the front door.  A few minutes later a man answered, obviously aroused out of his sleep.  Larry explained our dilemma and asked if there was anyway he could pull us out.  "We'll pay you," he assured him.  Then my future husband looked at me to see if I had any money.  I pulled my last ten-dollar bill out of my pocket and offered it to the farmer.  He took it without saying a word and went for his tractor.  I don't know how late it was when we pulled into my parents' driveway that night, but I know that we sat in front of the furnace for a long, long time before we stopped shivering.

Two days later the snow was gone and the roads were clear.  Lorraine had been released from the hospital and prepared a sumptuous meal for us and our wedding guests just like she promised.  The day  really was  perfect.   Well, almost.   Come to think of it, there was the groomsman who showed up wearing white tube socks with his tuxedo.  That was rather tacky. And I can't say that I was overly pleased to find out that the photographer had put a roll of film in backwards losing several of our wedding shots.  Okay, so maybe not quite perfect.   

It's funny how time changes our perspective.  When I think back on that October, I go to that day in Buffalo and I realize something.  That awful, terrible, very bad day has become one of my favorites in this thing called life.  I don't remember if we laughed that night as we sat in front of that furnace with chattering teeth, feet outstretched trying to get the numbness out of our toes.  Maybe not, we were simply too exhausted.   But if not then, we are laughing now.


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