With Jacquelyn and Joe, things are never quite what you expect them to be. They're better. Case in point, they met at a Irish festival in New York. Now you're probably envisioning a icy cold March day on the streets of Manhattan - streets packed full of people and crowded bars filled with people and their heavy coats. But that's not were Jacquelyn and Joe met. They met in October. On the beach. That's right - an Irish festival six months before Saint Patrick's Day, one were you get to have a drink in your hand, sand at your feet, and the sound of the waves of the Atlantic Ocean and you might just catch the eye of an attractive stranger. Between the two options, I'd say the way they met sounds much better.
They hit it off right away. Right away. They had a first date within just a few days of that first meeting. But they were eager to see each other again and tried to set up another date. Jacquelyn was going to her parent's house for the weekend to visit. And while you'd probably think that she would just find another weekend to see Joe, that's not what Jacquelyn did. She did something unexpected, something brave. She invited him to come to her parent's house. To meet them and then they could have their date down there. A pretty big step in any relationship, something that most couples would do after months and months of dating. Jacquelyn and Joe? Well, when he met her parents it was still October. In fact, it was one week after their very first meeting. And her parents approved. They could see that Jacquelyn was happy and that this relationship (even in it's earliest stages) was something different. It was something special. So while it might be a bit unconventional to have your parents meet your new guy within a week of your first meeting for a lot of people, it totally worked for them. From that very first meeting, they had the support of her parents who saw the potential, just as they had. And all four of them saw pretty quickly that this relationship was on it's way to so much more.
This April, after years of dating they finally tied the knot at a neighborhood church, just blocks away from her parent's house. The same house where it had first become obvious that Joe was the one for Jacquelyn. After the ceremony, they went back to where it all began - this time it was a beach in New Jersey. And the Atlantic Ocean greeted them once again. And in a way, it was a call back to that very first night they met. The sand at their feet, the sounds of the waves breaking in the distance and the chance to stare into each other's eyes all over again.
It's one of our favorite photos from our wedding. We're not in it. The photo was taken during a moment that is still one of the the most vivid memories I have from that night. It was the anniversary dance. The band started to play Louie Armstrong's "A Kiss to Build a Dream On," Rob and I were dancing in the center of the floor with married couples surrounding us. I can still picture it. Our newly married friends, our family members, friends of my parents who had known me since I was a baby. Even my then un-married brother was on the floor with his girlfriend. He knew it was for married couples, but he was certain then that she was going to be his wife someday. (They married two years later.)
I remember as the dance floor started to clear. "One year married", the band leader said. Off went our newly married friends. "Five years married." "Ten years married." There went my older cousins and their spouses, lining up around the dance floor. "Twenty years." More couples walked off hand in hand. "Thirty years." There were my parents, showing off their ballroom dance moves, happily staring into each other's eyes. "Forty years." My father escorted my mother off the dance floor, they were four years shy of their fortieth anniversary at the time.)
Then the band leader started going in smaller intervals. "Forty-five years". "Forty-seven... forty-nine." There were hardly any couples on the dance floor now. But we knew there would be one that would stick it out. By the time he got to fifty years there was just one couple on the dance floor, my Great Aunt Emily and my Great Uncle Will. They had been hesitant to get up on the floor in the first place. She had been sick and not so steady on her feet, but gentle prodding got them on the floor. As the years started to be counted off, they didn't quite get what it would mean for them as the song winded down. They were dancing slowly, simply.
As the dance floor cleared and the numbers started getting higher my Uncle Will got it. He stepped up his dance moves. They both started smiling. He was showing her off, just as he had done for years, decades even. "Fifty-five years." He held her even closer. They were both over ninety years old but you wouldn't know it to look at them. "Sixty years!" The band leader was shouting the numbers now. That put the spring in Uncle Will's step. They were really moving around the floor. "Sixty-one!" The guests started gesturing for the band leader to keep going higher. "Sixty two?" he said. The years were starting to sound more like questions now. "Sixty three?" At sixty-five he gave up and walked over to them. "How many years have you been married?" he asked. Sixty-eight was the answer. Sixty-eight years of dancing, laughing and entertaining their loves ones with their sense of humor and lust for life. The photo was snapped at some point after they were the only ones on the dance floor and Uncle Will and Aunt Emily really started to have some fun with the whole thing. After the wedding, we sent a print of it to them to display in their house.
She passed away nine months later, just two weeks shy of their sixty-ninth wedding anniversary. When we went to see Uncle Will after the wake he pointed out the photo we had sent to him. It was framed in their living room. "That's the last picture of us together," he said.