* * *
I was 17 years old the first time I saw him. I was sitting in a car with a bunch of friends in front of The Hut when a shiny new two-toned Chevrolet eased up alongside us. A slim, blond-haired boy with a crew cut got out.
"Who's that?" I said.
"Frayne Burgess," someone said, "He just got out of the Army."
The years passed, and in 1967 Patsy lost her husband in an automobile accident. She was left a widow at 25 with two small children to raise. The following year Frayne lost his wife, and he was raising four children under the age of eleven. He was 30. And he was a farmer.
God soon brought them together; they began dating and fell in love. I was matron of honor at their wedding on March 7, 1969.
They blended two families, two households, two histories, into one. And did it as smoothly, as naturally, as though it were meant to be. And, as it turned out, it was.
Suzanne, her father and I spent many happy times with them through the years. Suzanne loved playing with her cousins on the farm. When we came home on vacation each year, she disappeared into the group and never wanted to leave.
"It's too much for you," I said, "You already have six!"
"Suzanne's a good girl; you hardly know she's here," Patsy said, "Besides, one more won't make any difference."
Later, their home was a sanctuary for me when I went through difficult divorces.
They were great parents...loving, yet firm. There was no going to Mom and then to Dad to get what they wanted. Patsy and Frayne stuck together; neither played favorites with their birth children, and they all grew up to become loving, caring parents and grandparents.
Their grandchildren called them Gran and Papa.
Frayne and Patsy loved company; there was never a time I visited that I was not welcomed with open arms: "Brenda! Come on in!" says Pitty, giving me a hug, "Have some coffee and some of this pie I just made!"
We sat at the kitchen table, sipping coffee and talking a mile a minute, Frayne joining us sooner or later. We usually had a question or two for him: "Who did so-and-so marry;" "What happened to so-and-so?" Frayne knew everyone. He had hundreds of friends in Carlisle County.
They loved entertaining. I've enjoyed many catfish dinners with them; Frayne frying more catfish, hushpuppies and french fries than anyone could ever eat. And the country ham breakfasts, complete with red-eye gravy; Patsy's scrambled cheese-eggs, her breakfast casseroles, Frayne's good ole sausage gravy. The list is endless.
As are my memories.
Patsy and Frayne loved to dance, and they could jitterbug like no couple I've ever seen. I loved watching them. "Frayne really gets those 'little' feet going!" I often told Patsy.
And slow-dancing? They fit together like a glove.
"When the kids were little and we got them all tucked in for the night," Patsy said, "We often put on records, turned the sound down low, and slow-danced in the dark living room." Their favorite was Unchained Melody.
They played it at Frayne's funeral yesterday.