The Farm Chronicles: Of weddings, rings, and registers

My oldest brother Chuck was 14 years older than me. He was not only my brother, but kind of a father figure and certainly my coach. We were very close. He was a scholar athlete at our local high school, well loved and respected. Of course, I was only four years old when he graduated high school with many honors. So he was going through early manhood when I was just a young pup. That meant not only going to watch him play basketball and football, but also he was dating. A beautiful young lass Deedra caught his eye. He was the top athlete. She was the top cheerleader. They both were very popular, and it soon turned into a love story for the ages. And I didn’t like it.

Being the youngest in my family with such an age difference between my brothers, it has been said that I was a spoiled brat. Mom and Dad favored me. My brothers often told the story that they used to pay me to “shut up” because I talked constantly, according to them. But Chuck always engaged me. Maybe a little too much. I remember one Christmas when he and Deedra had first started dating. We were opening presents and Chuck had gotten Deedra a little stuffed dog with a wind-up music box. It was the best thing. And I really, really wanted it. You know what? Chuck took it from Deedra and gave it to me. Of course, in shock she graciously consented, but this incident was probably the beginning of the childish rift between me and my future sister-in-law. She thought I was spoiled and tried to fix it. Really?

Fast forward a couple of years and Chuck and Deedra were getting married. The big day was Sunday, June 10, 1962, 7:00 pm at our local church in Wayland, Ohio. Chuck had asked me to be the ring-bearer. Well, I wasn’t too keen on Chuck getting married, knowing that it would change our relationship, and as a seven year old, I couldn’t see how we would be so close ever again. So I devised this plan to walk down the aisle as instructed with the ring on the satin pillow, and at the last minute drop it down the cold air register beneath the altar. I was so excited about the plan that I couldn’t help but to reveal my secret to one of Chuck’s groomsmen, thinking he felt the same way I did. To my surprise my plan was foiled when they handed me the pillow before we walked down the aisle.

Someone had pinned the ring onto the pillow. I suffered through the ceremony, knowing my life would change forever. And it did. But for the better. Deedra was a wonderful wife and a mentor to me, showing me a different way and holding me accountable. Three years later, Chuck and his assistant coach were killed in a tragic car accident on their way to coach their varsity basketball team. We all had three years after the wedding. A lifetime for Chuck. Defining moment for the rest of us. But I think of the good times. Proverbs 21:23 says, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” And every once in a while, when thinking back on that June day, I get a chuckle of what might have happened if I had been able to keep my mouth shut.

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Bill Wilson