He was her boyfriend for 40 years: she found out he was married at his funeral

Tracey Folly

After four decades, my elderly aunt finally found out why her boyfriend wouldn’t marry her.

*this is a work of nonfiction based on real events that I witnessed personally

My elderly aunt dated the same man for forty years.

I remember how happy they always looked on holidays and at family events like weddings and funerals. Even as a child, I wondered why they didn’t just make their relationship official and get married, but they never did.

Even though my unmarried aunt was happy with my unofficial “uncle,” I knew she wanted to marry him. It was all she ever talked about.

After all, shouldn’t a couple who has been deeply in love for four decades seal the deal, eventually?

They continued their romance happily, but without a wedding, for four decades before the unthinkable happened. He died.

Since he and my aunt were unmarried, his daughter handled the funeral arrangements.

On the day of the wedding, my aunt dressed in her best mourning attire and arrived at the funeral home. She was prepared to seat herself in the first spot of the receiving line against the wall, nearest the coffin, as that was the seat typically reserved for the spouse or significant other of the deceased.

To her surprise, there was already another woman sitting in that seat.

I was sitting not far away with my parents as we were there to pay our respects to a man whom we’d all considered family. My relatives were all there. They had all thought of him as a family member since long before I was born.

We all watched in shock and surprise at what happened next.

My aunt walked up to the woman who was sitting in what she regarded to be “her seat.”

“You’re in my spot,” she said coolly.

The other woman appeared ruffled. “No. I am not,” she replied, “and who are you?”

My aunt visibly stiffened. “I am his girlfriend,” she said. “We have been together for forty years.”

The other woman stood but did not relinquish the space immediately in front of the contested seat. “And I am his wife,” she declared. Her voice was loud enough for all of us to hear. “We have been married for thirty-five years.”

My aunt had no choice but to concede defeat. She scurried out of the funeral home as fast as her high heels could carry her, and she did not return for the wake. She did not go to the church for the funeral service, and she did not appear at the cemetery for the internment.

It may have taken four decades, but my aunt finally knew that she’d been fooled. She never spoke of him again.

It was a minor family scandal for years. My aunt kept a low profile after that. We missed her at holidays and other family events like weddings and funerals, and when she did die, she died the same way she had lived, single.

As it turned out, being snookered was worse than being single.

I like to think my aunt fully recovered from the shock and embarrassment she suffered on the day of her long-time boyfriend’s funeral, but how does one come back from something like that. Sure, it’s not like they were high school sweethearts, but forty years is a terribly long time to dedicate your life and your heart to someone who had a secret wife.

Or maybe it was my aunt who was the secret.

As for the man’s fortune, which family gossip says was sizable, it went entirely to the man’s wife. My aunt was left fully out of the picture, which was clearly the way her boyfriend wanted it. Otherwise, he would have done something about it before it was too late.

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Writing about relationships online since 2009.

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