We called them the Pantry Pride Princess and the Duke of the Deli. They met at the local grocery store where they both worked - she a widow, he never married. Marie had raised two girls single handedly and he grew to love them as though they were his own. They made their home on Mayfield Ave off "BLAIR Rd" (the correct pronunciation if you're from Baltimore. Also know as "Belair Rd") in a row house with a concrete back yard. Goetze's Caramel Cremes were perpetually mounded in the candy dish, replenished as soon as they were devoured. With lamp shades and furniture protected by plastic, sweaty in the humid city summers, Gert & Gare (as we called them fondly) settled into their own safe haven.
And safe it was. His number one job was to look after her. She never drove, never had a drivers license, he took her everywhere. Diners and bingo and the Meat Cutters Union Hall were the norm, a visit to the VFW on occasion. A daschund named Sandy resided in that brick house. She resembled a loaf of bread on legs and was renamed "Lutsie Girl" or "Little Girl" ironic though it may seem. Life was low key but full of love.
On Mayfield Ave we knew we were cared for, comforted, secure. Tonight at the funeral home we said our last goodbye to Gary. Marie - at 90 - sat in a chair, tears in her stoic eyes. "Are you OK?" we asked. "As best as can be expected" was the answer. After over 40 years of companionship the long rides together had come to a rest. The words on the ribbon draped across the flowers on the casket did not read "Spouse" or "Husband" or "Father". They read "Beloved Friend". Two simple words. Two words that told the world what they were to each other. Simple, succinct and safe. Just as they were in life.