Wedding Bell Blues

August 25, 2019

I didn’t wear my mom’s wedding gown when I married Steve, because Mom had no idea what had happened to it. Granted, it would have been a shock had she been able to locate the dress, given the haphazardness of Joanie’s life. But we girls got the definite idea that nothing regarding November 19, 1955 was all that special to Mom. We have, in the way of mementos of the day, just four photos from the ceremony and reception. The photos have PROOF stamped across them (where are the actual pictures? Lord knows.) Father Louis Stryker, a priest friend of Dad’s family, married them, and it snowed a little on the way to the Larchmont Shore Club after church. That’s about all I know regarding Joan and Tom’s nuptials.

By the time I was seven, I had learned that theirs was a “rebound” relationship. Mom had recently broken up with Frank, the love of her life. She and five girlfriends rented a house in Spring Lake, NJ, where they spent summer weekends.  Across the street, six young men, including Dad, had rented another house. My parents met Memorial Day Weekend. Mom passed the following months trying to shake this faithful suitor, Tom Cunningham. She once told him that she’d be coming into the city at a certain time, then purposely blew it off. Dad met every train until midnight—and even then he didn’t get the hint.

“Persistence” never applied to my father in the work force (his sales career was just so-so).  But persistent he was in courting Miss Berrigan, and eventually he wore her down. They got engaged Labor Day weekend, and wed two months later. How well could they possibly have known each other, with such a speedy courtship? Not very well, as it turned out. Some marriages of opposites work. Theirs was just a constant clash of personalities—him quiet and secretive, her bubbly and share-all. Mom wanted kids; Dad didn’t care. They had the three of us within four years (Mom win), but then Dad played no real part in our upbringing, so he got his way too (every night he’d go to the bar with his work buds, staying away until we were tucked into bed).

They never separated until Dad’s untimely death in 1994, but they were never really happy. Looking back now, I see two very immature people, looking for something they weren’t able to find. In their way they loved each other, I think, or maybe they just got used to each other over time. I wouldn’t come to understand a happy marriage until my own with Steve, and even then I jeopardized things at first by picking fights with him (exactly as Mom had done with Dad). This November 19th, would be their 64rd anniversary. I will always wish they had found what they were looking for, Joanie and Tom, that long ago day when they said “I do.”

And I hope they are, finally, happy together in Heaven.


    I am an author (of four books, numerous plays, poetry and freelance articles,) a director (of Spiritual Formation at a Lutheran church,) and a producer (of five kids).

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