I didn't realize it at the time, but I first visited the house of my eventual friend of the past 40 years, Glenn Locke, right about the time when his mother probably was going through the worst part of her life.
Glenna, who passed away on Saturday and who was the focus of a nice remembrance "ceremony" today, no doubt had thought her life was going to be nice and orderly when she approached the 50-year mark. She had grown up in a nice family, gotten married, had two smart kids and was living a very comfortable lifestyle in a fine home in suburban Buffalo. What was there not to like?
I must have showed up in the house for the first time at some point around 1972. Glenn and I stopped by to play bumper pool. (Note: I got clobbered.) I had heard at some point that Glenn's parents had split up. That hadn't happened to many of my friends at this point - an innocent age - and it wasn't something that I'd bring up first in conversation.
However, I did notice that the big house was pretty empty. Glenn's sister Beth was off at college, so it was just Glenn and his mom there. The building felt quiet and empty. I'm not saying that the house resembled the "castle" that was shown at the end of "Citizen Kane," but there was a little sadness involved in moving about it. Too many things, not enough people.
I can't imagine what the experience was like for Glenna. While she wasn't hurting for money, the sudden change in lifestyle must have been enormous and rather depressing. And there was the whole matter of dating again. That's a scary enough process when you're in your 20's. It must have been worse for someone approaching their 50's, knowing the statistical odds of finding another partner were long.
What do you do? The best you can. Glenna soon moved into an apartment a few miles away, bringing the college-aged Glenn along, and found a job. In other words, she adapted. I remember how much Glenna tried to make Glenn's friends welcome during visits, although talking with parents was never our top priority when we came home for a week or two for Christmas.
Glenn and I still can joke about the fact that his mom would come home from the grocery store during those times and the years that followed, having bought beer for the refrigerator for us. However, it was usually the cheapest beer in the place - Simon Pure or some other off brand. Most parents never quite fit in during those years with their kids, and at the worldly age of 21 or 22 we probably acted a little like "beer snobs" about that. However ... we probably would have confessed under interrogation that we appreciated the gesture more than we let on.
After several years of this had gone by - and the years must have been lonely and difficult for Glenna at times - Glenn passed along the exciting news that his mother had found someone new to share life's experiences. When I asked who was the lucky man, Glenn laughed and said it was Ralph Wilson. Football fans in Western New York know that name, of course. So when I chuckled and said, "Ralph Wilson?" Glenn replied, "Ralph Wilson of Bells (the supermarket chain), and not Bills." I commented that I couldn't believe she would marry the "wrong" Ralph Wilson. By the way, when something happened to the Bills in later years, the phone of Lancaster's Ralph Wilson often would ring as angry fans would call.
And so Glenna Locke turned into Glenna Wilson, picking up an all-new family along the way. Widower Ralph had children from his first marriage, and Glenna seemed more than thrilled to treat them like her own kids. There was always lots of food around when I'd visit, and always some laughter.
Glenna watched the stepchildren turn into adults, get married and have children. Eventually Ralph died, but Glenna stayed close to the "other" family (her own children lived out of town) and enjoyed musicals and mysteries if her DVD collection was any indication.
I didn't speak at today's ceremony. But if I had, I would have said just how happy I was that this nice lady really did have a nice second act to her life after the considerable drama that entered it right before intermission.
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