When Cole presented me with the idea of sharing the stories of people who have been married for awhile, I immediately thought of my grandparents. I have had the privilege of growing up close to both sets of my grandparents. At the time of my paternal grandmother’s death they had been married 52 years. Most of the small community where I grew up and attended church knew both sets of my grandparents. For many of those growing up with my mother and her siblings, my maternal grandparents are not known by their given names of Tommy and Barbara, they are Papa and Granny! It was both entertaining and enlightening to sit with them and ask them questions about how they met and what the key to a long marriage is in their opinion. My Granny told me that the fact that she was allowing me to take her picture showed how much she loved me! She has never been one to allow pictures taken of herself, while my Papa is fine with it.
Their story is one that could have been a novel. She was the only child of relatively prominent parents. She grew up always wanting siblings and vowing to have a big family if she ever had the chance. He grew up the youngest of six children in a poor family. He had to sleep in a crib until he was about six years old because there was no bed for him!
Their paths first crossed when Barbara went home with Tommy’s older sister, Pat. She paid him little attention until one Sunday at church. Tommy was sitting behind her and decided to get her attention by pulling her hair! After church a mutual friend asked Tommy if he would like to ask her out. He knew he only had twenty-one cents in his pocket. Lucky for him the hair pulling did get her attention and she said yes and all she wanted was a Coke for twelve cents!
Barbara’s first impression of Tommy was, “I thought he was a rascal but cute!” After only two dates they started talking about marriage! They continued dating and passing notes in school until they graduated.
Their proposal story is not a typical romantic story. Tommy saved every dime and penny until he had enough to pay for the small but beautiful diamond ring. While sitting in his old truck one evening, he sort of tossed the ring box to her and said, you may want this.” Not the most romantic gesture, but effective.
Also not typical was the day of their marriage. Barbara’s mother was less than thrilled about the idea of their marriage. Tommy had little to offer in the way of financial security for her only daughter, but this didn’t stop them. They came up with a plan to slip away to the home of the pastor and were married, much to the upset of her mother. It took some time for her to accept the marriage, but she eventually grew to love Tommy as her son.
As an only child Barbara had prayed for a large family. She had always wanted two boys and two girls. Even though money was tight for many years, God did bless them with exactly that- two boys and two girls. Fast-forward to today and her prayer of a large family has truly been answered, not only four children, but eight grandchildren and eight (soon nine) great- grandchildren make up this very large family. Having her family around is what makes her the happiest. My grandmother’s lap has rocked many, many babies!
When I asked what the key to a long marriage was they each had very insightful answers. Barbara said, “We truly loved each other from day one and we still do. We just started dating and it never stopped.” Tommy said, “Where else would you want to meet your wife than in church? Putting God first in your relationship is most important. She is like my left arm and I am left handed! I cant do anything without her. I love her just as much today as I did the day I met her.”
My grandparents value God and family above all else. I have wonderful memories of walks in the woods with my cousins, meals around a large table, Papa reading the Christmas story while we waited impatiently to open gifts and lots and lots of laughter. I am very blessed to be their granddaughter!