When one is 14 years old they often feel very grown-up. At least that was the case for Glen Alfred Harris and me during the summer of 1952.
We were too young to date…just ask any conservative parents of the time. However, as with children the world over, there are ways around many parental rules.
Sixty-six years ago, not everyone had vehicles at their disposal. Therefore, it wasn’t out-of-the-ordinary for kids to hitch a ride to wherever they were going with the coal man, the ice man or even the Jewel Tea man when they came to our homes to make their delivery. Me? I chose Harley Harris, the milk delivery man…who just happened to be using his young son, Glen, as his helper…and who just happened to be going to the Lenawee Fairgrounds where there was always something going on.
This is how Glen and I chose the county fair as our very first rendezvous.
We even had our picture taken (remember the booths where for a quarter you could have a strip of four pictures taken?). Glen kept his, while I hid mine, because by that time Glen had given me his ring to wear on a chain around my neck, and it very clearly showed up in the picture!
When summer ended, I returned to Madison School, while Glen returned to Britton, and we lost touch.
Soon after graduation, Glen joined the mighty U.S. Army, went to Germany, and began smoking in earnest. Isn’t that what young men did in those days--begin smoking? That was like adding an exclamation mark to prove you were grown-up. Me? I married another young soldier and moved with him to Fort Hood, Texas.
There was a certain irony to our lives during the ensuing years. We both had a family, we both lived for a while on Toledo Street in Adrian, Mich. (while we didn’t know it at the time), and, eventually, we both began building the house of our dreams.
Time marched on. Glen became a fireman and I became a teacher. There were divorces…but, somewhere in God’s plans was the fact that that young Harris boy and that young Howard girl of so many years ago were destined to be married.
Both of us attended the funeral of his Uncle Ralph but never noticed one another. I guess it wasn’t in God’s timing--yet. However, at the next funeral we attended, he noticed me, came back and sat by my sister and me, and thus began another summer romance.
(By this time, Glen’s smoking had increased to two packs a day.)
Fast forward to June of 2018. My husband had to go in for his usual coronary check-up where he was told, “See you in another six months.” However, as we got to the door, the nurse practitioner said, “Maybe you should go to a pulmonary doctor and have that heavy breathing checked out.” This was when Glen’s last earthly dance--thanks to smoking for so many years--would begin to be played out. It would end on Sept. 15, 2018. It was brought about by his years of smoking--and it wasn’t pleasant.
CANCER! Cancer is a dread disease, and the years of smoking had allowed it to creep in, unnoticed until he began having bronchitis on an every other monthly basis and until it scored yet another statistic. And this time, Glen’s and my physical separation would become both difficult and more permanent.
Now, Glen wasn’t perfect. After all, he was a member of the human race, but he absolutely believed in God and the Trinity!
He didn’t just believe. He KNEW our Heavenly Father was walking with him 24/7. (I speak of “time,” but where Glen is now residing, “time” doesn’t exist. In fact, right now, he’s probably making up ridiculous jokes about this whole affair. But then, he always did enjoy an audience.)
My husband could be a real pain in a certain low extremity, but can’t we all at times?
He would often tell me how lucky he was to have me for a wife--and how proud and fortunate he was to be my husband.
He insisted on attending church and helping out any time the church doors were open. He loved the people who attended there.
He loved his sons. That’s how we ended up moving to Alabama, once I retired, so he could be near them.
He loved our “shared” son, Norm, on whom all the work around both of our places fell. Norm was working over him when he died.
He loved his coffee shops and their inhabitants, who were often the recipients of his weird sense of humor.
He loved his country and was proud of having served in its Army.
But you get the idea.
When we’d get lost on one of our outings, he would insist we were just taking the scenic route.
He often attached nicknames to people he met, regardless of how sick he was--like the tiny nurse at the hospital. Her name was “Hannah,” but she enjoyed her new name of “Little Bit” so much that she made a special trip to see him as we left for home after almost nine days in the hospital. He called her “Little Bit” one more time and gave her a hug. And she loved the attention!
When he’d tell me my hair was getting thinner--and that I had a whisker on my chin--I told him he was wrong! My hair was just being re-assigned, then we’d laugh about the foibles nature pulled on us as we grew older--together.
Because this is his time to shine (he finally has the audience he’s always wanted), I won’t bother telling you about his flirting with every nurse at both the hospital and the cancer treatment areas. I’m sure they became tired of hearing about his wonderful wife. (Did I ever pull the wool over his eyes!)
Or the time in radiation when I told him if he wanted to live long enough to return the next day, he’d better hush so I could jot down the instructions the doctor was giving to me dealing with his care. (At these times, he’d give the nurse a “hang-dog” innocent look and say, “She means it.” And he’d be quiet--for a few minutes.)
Our marriage was the perfect marriage. We differed (sometimes loudly), we loved, we put up with each other’s screw-ups, successes, children, Nascar and Jeff Gordon.
But always, we knew our Creator was as much a part of us as any other body part and that He was not just walking beside us, but one of his beautiful “chips” was within us, as it is with all of His creation.
And, just like our earthly parents, Glen understood that this special part of us, called “Father,” would forever be entwined in our very being--there was/is just no getting around that fact. It’s just a bit easier for us to KNOW those who sired us, who spanked our bottoms, who kissed us good-night.
And, now that the “blip” of physical humanity that was Glen Harris has decided to make his permanent home out-of-sight. It’s just like he went North for a visit, and that he’ll return once again.
But, until then, I wish him “God-speed”…
“See ya’ later alligator.”
Love you always, Faye
(A memorial service for Glen Harris was held at the Hamilton Funeral Home on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018, at 9 a.m. In lieu of flowers, Faye has requested a small donation be made to the American Cancer Society.)
(Columnist Faye Harris invites you to contact her at Fayeharris77@yahoo.com)
See complete story in the Journal Record.