Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

From This Day: Mom's dress, Gran's spirit, one happy couple

TARPON SPRINGS — Even before they met in person, Stephanie Collins already thought Greg Becker was an unusually patient man.

Maybe because as an auto mechanic he's attuned to listening for pings and grinds. Maybe from living with his ailing grandmother the last year of her life.

"It took him two months of chattering on a dating website to convince me to come out and meet him," she said, his perseverance noted.

A few beers and a bite to eat that night in January 2013 and neither wanted the evening to end. Greg kissed her goodbye at the Clearwater bar — her friend, the bartender, would become her maid of honor — and called her cellphone before he'd left the parking lot.

They talked for hours, "and every day since," said Stephanie, 27, a veterinary assistant at Southern Eye Clinic for Animals in Tampa.

Greg, 31, moved from Reno, Nev., to St. Petersburg in the fall of 2010 and works as an assistant manager for NAPA Integrated Business Solutions, facilitating auto parts for the city of St. Petersburg's utility vehicles.

Being near his grandmother, Margo Johnson, was a major draw. Their special bond — she was "like a second mother to me" — was especially meaningful given that he never knew his biological father growing up.

Their relationship reminded Stephanie of her closeness to her own maternal grandmother in Palm Harbor, who often pitched in for her parents. Both were musicians with nighttime gigs, she said.

The more time Stephanie and Greg spent together, the more she admired his attention to Granny. Greg felt the same way about her "amazing single mom" skills. Most dates were kid-friendly outings, like bowling and going to the beach, with her 7-year-old son, Carter.

In June, the couple drove to Kentucky to pick up her younger son, C.J., 6, who lives there with his father.

"He slowly warmed up to Greg on the way back to Florida," she said. "By the end of the visit, C.J. loved him, too."

The summer that began so promisingly took a drastic turn. Greg took care of Granny after a knee replacement in June 2013. The surgery went fine, but recovery left her weakened. She was diagnosed with cancer a month later. Greg said, "Just six months together and Stephanie was helping me take care of my grandmother," who lived through Thanksgiving, "telling us the turkey was dry, like her old, feisty self," She died a week later at age 72.

Sadness made the couple even more appreciative of each other. Greg took advantage of a family photo opportunity while his mother was still in town, taking care of Granny's affairs, to tell Stephanie how he felt with a diamond ring.

"We were all gathered in her parents' back yard in Tarpon Springs," he said. Suddenly, cameras were flashing, her brother was videotaping, and Greg was on one knee asking her to be his wife.

Planning commenced immediately for a June 28 wedding. But there would be no dress shopping.

"I always knew I would wear my mother's wedding gown," Stephanie said.

Out of the preservation box it came, as beautiful as she remembered.

But oh, so '80s.

"Puffy shoulders, long sleeves, cap veil . . . but it fit perfectly," she said.

Riverview seamstress Calista Thomas came highly recommended. She listened to Stephanie's ideas and added her own suggestions. In short: sleeves off, train trimmed, bling added.

The next time the bride stepped into the gown, a month before the wedding, the vision made her mother, Amy, and grandmother cry.

Pastor Mike Oliver and youth director David Bolton, who has known Stephanie since she was a teen, officiated at First United Methodist Church in Tarpon Springs. Guests proceeded to the charming 1910 Inn for the afternoon reception.

Something startling happened as the ceremony ended.

"Stephanie gave me a little pin with a picture of me and Granny on it," Greg said. "When I walked over to my mother and stepfather, it just popped off my tux. It was eerie, almost like she was sending us a message."

After the first dance with her husband, the bride slipped away to change into a short, white lace dress. "I didn't want anyone to step on the gown or damage it," she said.

It's packed away now, for a daughter she hopes to have who will wear it someday. "She'll probably say, 'Oh my gosh, you actually wore this? It's soooo 2014."

Contact Amy Scherzer at [email protected] or (813) 226-3332.

Comments
Your guide to St. Pete Pride: What's changed for 2018

Your guide to St. Pete Pride: What's changed for 2018

Pride weekend kicks off in St. Petersburg Friday with a free concert hosted by a RuPaul’s Drag Race star, a parade along the downtown waterfront on Saturday and an expanded expo of vendors and art on Sunday in the Grand Central District that ga...
Published: 06/19/18

Tell Me About It: Mom/daughter dynamic feels controlling

Q: I am afraid I may be a controlling mom of my young adult daughter, but we have a dynamic in which she seeks me out often, solicits my advice, and makes me too important in her life. I admit to offering that advice because it is hard for me to draw...
Published: 06/19/18

Tell Me About It: Regretting staying too long in bad romance

Q: I recently broke up with someone after two years. Even though there were things that bothered me while we were together, I would convince myself I was overreacting, he didnít really mean it, etc.Now that itís over, I feel like a fool for not havin...
Published: 06/18/18

Tell Me About It: After years of depression, a diagnosis

Q: Iím 33 and have dealt with depression on and off since my adolescence. I grew up in a household with every kind of abuse you can think of, but I didnít start seeking help until my early 20s via talk therapy, and cut ties entirely with my abusers. ...
Published: 06/17/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of June 18-24

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of June 18-24

St. Pete Pride: One of the largest Pride celebration in the Southeast happens this weekend, bringing a rainbow of activities. Things set off on Friday with the free SP2 Concert at North Straub Park, hosted by Coco Montrese of RuPaul’s Drag Race...
Published: 06/15/18
Updated: 06/18/18

Tell Me About It: Pregnancy news confirms estrangement

Q: I just found out my son and his wife are going to be parents. Iím very excited and somewhat confused and a little hurt: Sheís seven months along. I donít know why the long wait to tell me. They live in another state, and I havenít seen them in abo...
Published: 06/15/18

Tell Me About It: Sister must face her poor choices in men

Q: Last night, I received my umpteenth call from my sobbing, devastated sister (mid-20s) over yet another semi-hookup-flirty-thing guy that didnít work out. He is moving away and she found out via an announcement at work, not from him.This is a years...
Published: 06/15/18
High-tech nighttime lagoon show coming to Universal Orlando this summer

High-tech nighttime lagoon show coming to Universal Orlando this summer

A gliding, wraith-like figure of a Dementor from the Harry Potter films enters Central Park, and the exteriors of the surrounding buildings immediately are covered in a layer of ice, a sign of their power to drain happiness out of the air around them...
Published: 06/14/18
Things to do this weekend: Fatherís Day, Maroon 5, The Illusionists, Mr. Rogers film, fireworks at Busch Gardens

Things to do this weekend: Fatherís Day, Maroon 5, The Illusionists, Mr. Rogers film, fireworks at Busch Gardens

HolidayFatherís Day: Sunday brings us a day to honor the guy who cheered us on, called us down and blamed us for his bald spot. Itís Fatherís Day! A number of local attractions are offering free admission for dads if at least one ungrateful progeny t...
Published: 06/14/18

Tell Me About It: Group resists suggestion of sober vacation

Q: I have a friend I have known since high school who has recently been in recovery for drinking. He is about six weeks into an outpatient system and has been doing well. A group of friends including my friend in recovery have been going on two campi...
Published: 06/14/18