Gilbert Cayetano Huesca (1915 – 2009)
Joan Joyce (Schiavon) Huesca (1928 – 1987)
The weeks that followed my parents’ engagement were quite full, both for the happy couple and my maternal grandparents, Ralph and Alice (McGinnis) Schiavon. My father moved into a new apartment, and he and my mother began furnishing it with guidance from my grandmother and Mrs. Fern Waples, my father’s former landlady and friend.
My grandfather, who had always loved parties and entertaining, began floating the idea of giving my parents a large wedding reception at the Swedish Club, a social club to which he belonged on Chicago’s North Side (though he was not Swedish but Italian). He and my grandmother took my parents there one evening for dinner to discuss it further and go over a guest list.
My mother, who preferred a simple and small, intimate wedding, objected to this idea. She feared that most of the guests would be business associates of my grandfather’s. She wanted instead to share her day with close friends and family only.
It also turned out that she was afraid that her father might quash the wedding plans altogether. An old-fashioned Italian father, he had expected that his only daughter would stay home and care for her parents through their old age and not even consider marrying until after they died. Further, he had hoped that when my mother eventually did marry, it would be to an Italian.
Now, it is hard to know whether or not my grandfather changed his mind about this over time. We do know, however, that my mother saw things differently. She was of a younger generation and though not rebellious by nature, she definitely differed with her father on this subject. My mother was deeply in love, and she resolved that she would marry my father, no matter what obstacles stood in her way.
My father continued to visit my mother whenever he could. On Thursday, August 19, 1954, he went to Chatham Galleries, the Schiavon family’s antiques shop, to spend his lunch hour with my mother, who was minding the store while her parents were on vacation in Miami, Florida.
My mother locked the door to the shop so they could take a walk. When it was time for my father to go back to work, he leaned in to kiss her goodbye and saw tears streaming down her cheeks. When he asked her what was the matter, my mother plopped down on the curb and buried her face in her hands.
“I don’t want you to go. I want to get married right now,” she sobbed.
My father sat down beside her and took her hand as she told him she could not wait a moment longer.
“My parents are away,” she went on. “If we wait until they get back, we won’t be able to do this the way we want to. Maybe we won’t be able to get married at all.” She continued to cry as my father attempted to comfort her.
My father, who was a stickler for doing things properly, knew my grandfather would never approve of an elopement. As he and my mother talked some more, he realized that not only was my mother was serious about not waiting, but he, too yearned to be with her all the time. She was more precious to him than life itself, and the thought of spending the rest of his life with her beginning today seemed completely right.
He looked down at his lunchpail. “I’ll call work and tell them I’m not coming back today,” he said.
He and my mother got up from the curb and made their way downtown to the Justice of the Peace.
Copyright © 2012 Linda Huesca Tully