From George Burns and Gracie Allen to Ozzie and Harriet. From my Grandpa and Grandma, Herman and Anna Schwarz, to my Mom and Dad, and to Dale and Lorene Allen. Over time, I have come to think of and speak these inseparable pairs of names almost out of second nature. Each of these couples’ names evokes the one with the other, almost a habit. Each has become synonymous with what, to me, true love and caring relationships represent.
Dale and Lorene.
All my life, my mom’s sister and her husband have been at family reunions and weddings. They have participated in the laugher, and also shared in the sorrow along life’s way. When one was in the house, the other was not far away.
One half of that team lost a brave fight to cancer late Tuesday afternoon when Uncle Dale passed away at his Waunakee home. As Dale waged that final battle over the course of the winter, he could not have found a better partner and friend than his faithful Lorene. Dale remained at home, and comforted. Day or night, the one who had stood by his side over the decades was never more than a few feet away. And yet, the togetherness that this couple shared will not be lost to time. Some bonds in life are so strong that death cannot tear them apart.
My early memories of Uncle Dale paint him as a genial taxi cab service for the three cousins who would come to visit at Grandma’s house. When my grandparents still had the old farmstead in Hancock, just across the road from where I grew up, there was a week every summer when all the cousins from all over would visit. We would play in the woods, and though we weren’t supposed to, we would sometimes run in Grandpa’s corn rows and fields. We would laugh, share stories and play countless croquet games.
In those early years of my memory I did not know Dale as well since he always talked with the other family members his age while visiting. There was, however, one way that he always made his presence known to me when I was young.
At the annual family reunions, I could be talking with a cousin or an aunt and uncle when I would sense a little yank from behind. Dale would always sneak up behind me and pull on my belt loop. Tug. Tug. Tug. When I turned, he would greet me with a smile.
As I grew older Uncle Dale was special too in that he would always converse with me on interesting topics of the day. While others sometimes spoke only of casual banter or the weather, Dale took an interest in what I was currently engaged. I knew we had both reached the middle of the road when in later years we started sharing stories about the woes we experienced with our cable TV companies!
The relationship I shared with Dale grew and evolved over the years. I began to understand Uncle Dale in a new light, and I am sure that he felt the same about me as an adult nephew with a partner of my own. About two years ago, in fact, I was witness in the home of Dale and Lorene to one of those moments that one might find in a Hallmark movie. Better yet, if a snapshot had been taken that evening it might have made for a Saturday Evening Post cover.
From the basement of their home, Lorene brought up the old Victrola that had once belonged to her grandmother Bertha. Dale carefully placed it on the kitchen counter. A pile of old 78’s were piled alongside while some effort was made to wind up the old machine and again hear music from its one speaker. With some gentle touches and a dose of luck, the Wabash Trio’s Turkey in the Straw filled the room from the old stylus needle and turntable. Everyone’s face showed the joy of the moment.
It was then that Lorene, standing close to Dale said “Come on, Daddy, let’s dance.” All the years that they had spent together seemingly spun backwards all of a sudden. They appeared like a new couple, just dating. Since Dale’s hip was still not fully healed from a fall, he declined any fancy dance steps he might have once taken but swayed gently for a moment with the music, holding in his arms the one he had danced life with for many a decade.
Most will never know about this decades’ long love story which began sometime before their wedding in Plover on December 14, 1957. Nor will a majority of us ever know about the family they raised. And sadly few will ever hear of the brave journey my Uncle Dale and Aunt Lorene took together these past weeks–one needing to let go for now, and the other holding on tight. These types of stories are taking place every day all over the world. It is one thing to know about them, but it is another to see them happen. I have been a grateful observer.
I have been an appreciative reader of this half-century love story as if it were a best-selling novel. The ‘Dale and Lorene Story’ isn’t finished, and the last pages of this chapter will not be about death. Instead, the pages will be about the strength of love and the resolve of family. They will illustrate both our physical frailty, along with the mental and emotional strength we need to see the way through the storm. The story will demonstrate how we do what the moment requires sometimes, despite the pain. Yes, the last pages of this chapter will be about a brave face upstairs and the shedding of tears downstairs where no one can see. This story helps us understand that there is nothing more difficult than to be in the midst of a tempest, have no control over the winds, and be forced to ride it out.
When it comes time to write notes and cards over the coming months and years I think we will all stop and hesitate, much like we do when we all start a new year and almost write the old one on the checks. We will hold our pen over the paper for a moment and then just add one of their names to the envelope. But in our mind, and in our hearts, we will always know that when there is the one name, there is really two.
Uncle Dale leaves to celebrate and honor his life his three sons and their families: Brian and Ruth Allen; Lowell and Lucy Allen and their four children, Hailey, Grant, Perry and Cole; and Todd and Jenny Allen and their three children, Max, Paige, and Gus.
For all of us, Dale’s extended family, there will always be a “Dale and Lorene”. Thank you, Dale, for being a loyal and faithful friend to so many; we are all richer for having known you.