August 21, 2021

When May Marries December...


There were nearly 20 years difference between my parents. The year I was born he turned 50 and she turned 30. It was my father's second marriage, my mother's first and only. I was "welcomed" by five older half siblings...the oldest only two years younger than my mother, and the youngest already 16 years old. I have tidbits of stories from those days, from my mother and father both. I also have facts dug up later in the course of my genealogy studies that color those stories in one light or another depending on your perspective.

My mother was fond of telling me about her first date with my Dad. It was a blind date set up by her twin sister, Dee Dee. She asked him for identification when he arrived to pick her up. It wasn't until after my mother died that I learned that his divorce from his first wife wasn't even final yet during the six months they dated before marrying in August 1974. It was finalized August 1, 1974 and they married August 31st. I was born nine months and two weeks later almost on the nose, likely the result of their rainy weekend honeymoon at a Cook Forest Cabin.

When they married Mom moved from a small second floor apartment in Point Breeze (an apartment that would later play a roll in my own story) to the house my father built on a piece of rural property in Bell Township near Slickville. His brothers Al, Ed and Bud had adjoining pieces of property and my grandmother lived in a cottage at the end of Rea Road. The back side of my Dad's land butted up against the property of Charlie Turner and my Grandma's cottage was nestled along the shore of Beaver Run Reservoir.

They were an unlikely pair; he was a flirt and a smooth talker while my mother was quiet, reserved and stronger than anyone gave her credit for. He came from a large depression era family that included six children and she was born into a small dysfunctional middle class family with her twin and an older sister.

My mom told me many times over the years that she was determined to make sure my childhood was not like hers--full of my grandmother's angry voice and my grandfather's alcoholism, domestic violence and taking sides. She fully succeeded despite the things that lurked beneath the surface of my parent's relationship with one another and the world at large, but I didn't learn about those things until sometime in my 20's.

Becky and Gil Rea on their wedding day August 31, 1974. They were married at Epiphany Lutheran Church in Penn Hills and had a small family reception at her tiny apartment on Lyman Street in Point Breeze.