Remembering December 5, 1959.
Written in Ellwood City, PA, 1966.
Updated on the occasion of our 63rd anniversary, December 6, 2022.
Tomorrow I am getting married! Tomorrow! I am getting married! Me, Felicia Bialecki, I am getting married! I still cannot believe it. Me, who always seems to be at the end of the line, who has neither talent nor beauty – I am getting married. And not just to anybody either. I am becoming the wife of a man whose name alone is enough to make every girl’s heart beat faster. He is – or to be more correct, was – the most “desirable bachelor” in town.
Of course, I had liked him when we first met. Who wouldn’t? And of course, I was madly in love after our first date. There was nothing unusual about that. Teenagers are known to fall in love very quickly. The incredible thing was that he kept asking me out again and again. Within one month I was completely under his spell. I couldn’t study. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t sleep. I lived from one date to another. Where were my high hopes of becoming a famous psychologist? Where were my plans for a great career?
Even the promised summer European trip I had longed for so desperately had no appeal anymore. I started to wonder where all this was going to end. Was my love just a teenager’s big flame that would die out or was it the slow durable fire which could last a lifetime? What were his feelings? Was I just wasting my time and emotions? Was my heart being played with, just to be dropped when the game was over?
Then he went away for a few days, and the world disappeared. I had never been so restless in my life. I could not sit still for a moment and could not read a single line. I wandered around the house like a captive bird whose wings had been clipped. There was no purpose in my life anymore. I felt empty and useless. That is when I realized how much this man whom I knew for only two months had become a part of me. Nothing, neither parents, nor school, nor friends, mattered anymore. My noted “cool head” and clear thinking I had always bragged about had disappeared.
When he called a few days later, I could hardly make it to the phone. My hands and knees were shaking so badly, it was all I could do to not drop the receiver. My heart was beating as if it wanted to tear my ribs apart.
There was no doubt in my mind anymore that I had been “hooked” for good. But what were his intentions? Was he playing with my feelings? The answer to this question came very suddenly and unexpectedly as he declared one evening, “We are going to get married.”
And tomorrow is that happy day…
As I ponder thus about the past, suddenly pangs of sorrow and fear grip my chest. Sorrow for the beautiful months that lay behind us, filled with anticipation and excitement. And fear for the future. Suddenly, as if struck by lightning, I shudder at the thought that this is the last day of innocence, independence and irresponsibility. What will the future hold in its palm? Would our overpowering passion lead toward mutual understanding and calm durable love? Or would it just disappear into nothingness once our thirst for each other was satisfied? Had I acted too quickly? Maybe I should have waited before committing myself?
For the first time I realize that I am binding myself for life – for as long as I live, entering a door that will close behind me forever. This is not a childish prank. You can’t say “sorry” if it does not work out and pretend nothing happened. There is no return.
Panic sets in. I cannot go through with it. I must cancel the wedding; go into hiding, just disappear. But no, I cannot do that either. Life is not a game. You don’t play with people’s feelings to suit yourself. There is only one thing I can do. Pray.
“Please God, help me. Help me on my way towards life. Help me to make my husband happy, to understand and support him. Help me to deserve the trust he has in me, and most of all, O Lord, give me the courage and strength to be a faithful and loyal wife, to stand steadfastly by him in good and evil, whether the sun shines on us or a storm smashes through our lives. In short, O God, help me to be a good wife.”
Today, December 6, 2022, we are celebrating our 63rd anniversary. It has been a long, wonderful journey. We are blessed with two great children, eight wonderful grandchildren and eleven adorable great-grandchildren.
Of course, there were times when we had to readjust to our individual changes and transformations. My husband had to deal with the new “liberated” me, a result of the Women’s Liberation Movement. I was no longer the passive “little wife.” I went back to school, got a degree and looked for a job. His first reaction was “No wife of mine is going to work.” But, to his credit, he adjusted and supported me throughout graduate school, teaching career, speaking commitments and my years immersed publishing two books. Howard remained his “old self,” and my role became easier as he climbed the career ladder.
Now, in our twilight years, our roles are reversed. Because of his illness, I have become the de facto “head” of the family. It is a major adjustment for both of us. Somehow, we manage. We have no choice. We make the best of it and try to be as positive as possible for the future years left for us.
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Read more by Felicia Graber.