Monday, December 27, 2010

50 Years and Counting

So many people have asked me if it seems like 50 years that Patty and I have been married. In many ways it does, but time has a way of compressing. It only seemed like yesterday that I met Patty at Howard College in Birmingham, Alabama, when we both enrolled as freshmen, anxiously launching college careers. At the President's Reception, during which the college president introduced himself to the incoming freshmen, a photographer who knew Patty needed two students for a photo. He obviously asked Patty and then randomly asked me if I would pose with her. This was our first introduction.

Just a few weeks later, I was elected to the Student Senate by my Freshmen peers and enjoyed representing my class on that governing body. Our initial "get together" as a group was a special dinner held at "The Club" in Homewood. Since I knew no one else, I asked Patty if she would join me at the dinner. She agreed, and that started a relationship that has now lasted more than 52 years.

For a year and a half we dated. We were seldom apart, attending the same church, sharing outings with friends and enjoying simply being together. I first met her family in 1958, spending that first night on an old lumpy couch in Sylacauga, Alabama, where she grew up. Over the months, I met her parents many more times during their weekend treks to Birmingham, a favorite pastime. I attended pancake breakfasts where her father served with fellow Kiwanians, and I attended First Baptist Church, where she had formerly been pianist. I got to know her pastor, Dr. William K. Weaver, who later became the first president of Mobile College in Mobile, Alabama.

Christmas 1959, I asked her father for her hand in marriage and secretly put a engagement ring which we had selected at Elebash Jewelers in Pensacola, Florida, in her mashed potatoes. She was excited and began, with her mother, to plan our wedding.

Wearing a wedding dress designed and fabricated by her mother, a master seamstress, Patty and I stood before Dr. Weaver and were married before 300 guests at First Baptist Church, Sylacauga, Alabama, on December 26, 1960. It seems like just yesterday, for I can remember many of the details of the day. And yet time has marched on, with the details of many other experiences being relegated to the far corners of my mind.

Our first apartment was on Highland Avenue in Birmingham, a small fourth floor, one- bedroom apartment with doors whose frames seemed to sag at so severe an angle that they would not shut. But $55 a month wasn't too bad to pay for rent. With gas at $.25 a gallon and bread at $.10 a loaf, life was simpler then. And as Patty mentioned in her Christmas letter this year, it has been a lifetime experience including fourteen houses, sixteen cars, varied jobs, her forty years in the classroom and school library, three children, three grandchildren, a collection of bells for her, a collection of bottles, lighthouses and telephones for me, thousands of pictures, wonderful vacations all over the United States and Canada, and exotic trips abroad on mission work and for pleasure. What more could I ask for?

During all these years, I have served as pastor, minister of music (even though I could not then and still cannot read music), an editor at the Baptist Sunday School Board, a professor at two universities, a development officer and later a consultant. It has been a varied, exciting and fulfilling life. Patty has always been the stabilizing force, in that when I might have made a bad decision with respect to a job or business deal, she always had her school teaching, a steady job at which she was not only just capable but also superb. When I may have faltered, she was there to keep us afloat, to make sure that we survived financially,. Only during these last twenty-five years have I been blessed financially beyond what I could have imagined, allowing her to breathe a little easier and use her earnings the way she wished. God has been good, and I give Him all the praise honor and glory for what I have achieved personally and what we have achieved together.

Has our marriage been perfect? Not by a long shot. There have been ups and downs, serious illnesses that tried our patience, children who have scared us to death because of sickness, tragedies, financial downturns, job losses, business failures, and yet through it all, God has been faithful, and our lives have been enriched. I would not trade my life with Patty and my life's experiences for gold beyond measure.

50 years and counting. Would I cherish 50 more? Of course, but we all know that our lives are numbered and such is not in the cards. I hope one day to close my life by getting a job at a local college or university here in Nashville where I can write an exclamation point to all that I have experienced by sharing my knowledge and experience with young people who have their lives ahead of them. God willing, I will finally share my knowledge and study of the Bible which I have never been able to do. And use all that Greek I majored in while in seminary. I am even now working on two books, one relating to the Book of Revelation and one to the Gospel of John.

I close with these words from Proverbs 31:10-31, a portion of wich reads: "An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels." I have been blessed with such a wife for 50 years. May God bless us as we continue this incredible journey of faith and remembrance.