The summer after fifth grade, we moved from our house in Uniontown, Ohio to the farm in Portage County. It was shortly after that move that my mom found the church she wanted us to attend... St. Michael's Byzantine Catholic Church.
In Akron, twenty-five miles from the farm. No more than ten miles from Uniontown. Oh, well. Long drives to get where you needed/wanted to be were not uncommon for our family.
Mom was born in Czechoslovakia, when it was still known as Austria-Hungary.
In her eyes, the Roman Catholics just didn't do it right.
St. Michael's was the church where the four of us kids (the youngest having not yet been born) finally took our first communions. On the same day. After having completed catechism and learning to "go to confession".
St. Michael's had, among seemingly hundreds of other social events and celebrations, an annual church picnic. The church owned property at the edge of another town not far away. This piece of land was a hill, at the top of which was the church cemetary. At the bottom of the hill, in the back, was the pavillion for the picnics. The pavillion was a huge, roofed-over concrete slab with benches along the outer edges. I remember large trees surrounding the entire piece of property, so the pavillion was nicely shaded.
The first picnic we attended there, I remember sitting beside my dad on one of the benches, listening to a local polka band and watching people dance. Dad loved music, but his sense of rhythm... or more appropriately, his lack of... kept him off the dance floor most of the time. So, I kept him company while people whirled, twirled, glided and bounced past us.
Mom was one of the dancers.
I could see Dad following Mom with his eyes, watching her graceful movements as she and her dancing partner... an older woman from the church... circled 'round and 'round the dance floor. I could tell that he would have liked to have been her partner in the dance. His gaze never left her face.
After she passed us several times, smiling at us while she danced, I heard Dad let out a long sigh. I turned to look at him, and heard him say so very quietly, "Isn't she beautiful?"
That was the first time I saw love and passion reflected in a person's face.
In that moment, he saw only her. The love of his life.
Not long after that time, their marriage started to fall apart.
But they never divorced, and he took care of her as she was dying from cancer.
I like to think that he never stopped thinking she was beautiful.