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And Just Like That

bruce polly gerencser midwestern baptist college 1977
Bruce Gerencser, Polly Shope 1977

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected.

It’s late August in 1976 and I have just walked through the doors of the Midwestern Baptist College dormitory.

A few days later, a seventeen-year-old girl from Bay City, Michigan, a preacher’s daughter,  walked through the same doors.

A few weeks later, we went out on our first date.

It wasn’t long before we were in love; well, we thought it was love, anyway.

I knew she was the one.

I proposed, she said yes, her parents said no, we said we are going to get married anyway, and so we did on a hot July day in 1978 at the Newark Baptist Temple in Heath, Ohio.

Pontiac, Michigan, Bryan, Ohio (twice), Montpelier, Ohio, Newark, Ohio (twice), Buckeye Lake, Ohio, New Lexington, Ohio (twice), Glenford, Ohio, Somerset, Ohio, Junction City, Ohio, Mt. Perry, Ohio, Elmendorf, Texas, Frazeysburg, Ohio, Alvordton, Ohio (twice), Clare, Michigan, Stryker, Ohio, Yuma, Arizona, and Ney, Ohio . . . all the communities Polly and I have lived in over the past forty-one years.

Jason was born in Bryan, Nathan was born in Newark, Jaime was born in Zanesville, Bethany was born in Newark, and Laura and Josiah were born in Zanesville. Just yesterday, they were cute, cuddly newborns, and now they are 40, 38, 35, 30, 28, and 26.

Where did the time go? Polly and I ask ourselves.

Now we have thirteen grandchildren.

My Mom and Dad are long gone and Polly’s parents are in their 80s, in failing health.

I am no longer in the ministry and Polly and I have left the faith.

Never would we have considered such a thing possible.

Yet, here we are.

For decades, Polly was a stay-at-home mom, but now the roles are reversed.

We started married life full of vim and vigor, strong in body. Now my body is broken and Polly faces serious, life-threatening health problems of her own.

Our children are all out on their own, own their own homes, and are productively employed. Just like that . . .there are the two of us . . .and Bethany. Dear, dear Bethany.

Our life has had one constant: change.

Time marches on and stops for no one. A cliche? Perhaps, but nonetheless true.

Most of life is now in the rear-view mirror.

We peer dimily into the future, knowing that death lurks in the shadows.

If I died today, I will die happy.

Happy that I have seen my children grow up into fine adults.

Happy that I have spent lots of time with thirteen wonderful grandchildren.

Happy that I own my home and that I have lived a gratifying life of love with Polly.

If I had to sum up my life I would say, it has been good.

I am often asked, if I had to do it all over again would I ____________________?

I can’t answer this question.

Life is what it is, and playing the what-if game holds no value for me.

I know this one thing . . .

If I could marry one woman in the world . . .

it would be Polly.


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    I had this same conversation with my hubby this morning. We agreed that we picked out a good one. And that by now, no one else would want either one of us. 🙂

    It’s good to fall in love with your spouse. Building that love takes a whole lot of everything, doesn’t it?

    If I had it to do all over again, there are very few things I’d do differently. But I’d still choose the same life partner.

  2. Avatar

    I remember a little story about happiness. I think it’s asked of a Red Indian (doesn’t really matter) ‘what’s the secret of happiness?’ He replies ‘grandfather dies, father dies, son dies’. The inquisitor asks why is something as seemingly depressing the secret of happiness.

    The Red Indian replies ‘they die in that order’

    • Avatar
      Karen the rock whisperer

      Not happiness, but absence of great grief. Friends of mine lost their son to cancer last year. Parents shouldn’t have to bury their children.

  3. Avatar

    Aww, everyone is so choked up. I am glad too for you, I really am, but unable to refrain from responding to the following:

    “Where did the time go? …” with a Groucho Marks quote:

    Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

  4. Avatar

    Bruce, this has to be one of your best, in my opinion.

    Like Polly, my wife (my 2nd but we’re 35 years together) has been there for me every step of the way.

    Semi retired at 38 years old due to some great years. Bought a business that was a “gold mine” – and then it wasn’t. Long story but the events of 9/11/01 drove us from 7 figure net worth into bankruptcy.

    Luckily we were able to keep our home. Started over – and were on our way. Then the 08-09 collapse hit us hard. We packed our stuff and walked away from our island home in Florida. That one really hurt.

    Now we are both too old and crippled to start over and we exist on Social Security. We moved back to Ohio to help out with grandchildren and other relatives. Life is very different but still good.

    Through it all – NEVER one word of complaint from my dear wife. I would bet the author of Proverbs 31 was able to look to the future and see women like my wife – the modern version of course!

    You are a lucky man Bruce – and very few of the guys I know appreciate how wonderful a great wife can be.


  5. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    These troubling days are so full of loneliness and fear for many people. An old woman came into the Red Cross today to pick up equipment so she could bring her husband home from hospital. She has been socially hiding herself for two weeks and has not seen her husband for longer than that, since he had to be admitted. She sat several meters away from me as I collected her toilet seat riser and bath chair etc and just talked a streak about life… and her worry that she will not be able to support her husband at home now. Big changes all the time.
    Life is chaos, isn’t it… Just relax, says the old Buddha, just relax, life is chaos.
    Thanks for the memories, Bruce. My best wishes to you and yours.

  6. Avatar

    I know you are not posting my comments any longer and that is ok. I will follow up with one from me to you one of theses days, you may read or not read and that is ok too, But with all that said, this post today by you was (and this is only my opinion, which I know is not favored any longer) very heartfelt and truthful, not some random opinion by you, just heartfelt/real.

  7. Avatar

    Probably one of the greatest gifts life can grant us is to find that special person and join lives, and know, as time goes on, that you are with that person and you would still choose that person all over again. Especially if you would change other life choices. I’m that fortunate myself and I’m always delighted for others in the same happy circumstance.

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Bruce Gerencser