(Writers Note: It is June 8, 2014 as I sit at my computer writing this column. Today Marianne and I are celebrating our fortieth anniversary.)
She was only fifteen years old when I met her. She had been sixteen for two weeks and I had been nineteen for two months when we married. Folks said it would never work. However, after four children, seven grandchildren, and forty years of marriage – it’s still working. She still cranks my tractor! And if I had to do it all over again – I would still choose to do it with her.
There’s an old adage that says, “Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.” That is certainly the case regarding Marianne and me. My imagination is not vivid enough imagination to make up what I’m about to tell you.
I had graduated high school, was working fulltime, and was devoting all my spare time to my passion – making music with my friends the Matthews boys. Evidently this concerned my momma. She told me, “Boy, you’re spending entirely too much time with those boys making music. You need to find you a nice girl and start dating.”
As fate would have it, I had started attending church with the Matthews boys at Bethel Chapel Baptist Church in LaGrange, Georgia. The youth of the church were practicing for a Christmas play and we needed a pianist. Sheila Parker spoke up and said, “I know one. I’ll go get her.” I was standing in the pulpit area of the church playing my guitar when Sheila returned with Marianne.
When I saw her it was as if sunbeams suddenly started emanating from everywhere. She was the most gorgeous creature I had ever seen! I asked Ray Matthews, “Who is that chick?” He said, “I don’t know.” I said, “I don’t either but I’m gonna get a date with her!” I later discovered she was checking me out too and had asked Sheila who that fine specimen of a hunk of a man was in the pulpit. (Or something like that. My memory is fuzzy. It has been forty years!) (Lol!)
I went to pick her up for our first date. Evidently it was a warm winter day. When I walked onto the front porch the door was open and I could see Marianne’s mother, Mrs. Annie Hale, a Pentecostal Fire Baptized Holiness woman, sitting in the living room.
The TV was on and she was watching “Columbus Wrestling” a Fred Ward promotion. Because she was a Pentecostal Fire Baptized Holiness woman she wasn’t supposed to have a TV in her house.
However, Mr. Hale was not a Pentecostal Fire Baptized man, so she had a loophole and she loved to watch wrestling. As I knocked on the door, without even looking up she said, “Come in.”
As I stood at the other end of the couch waiting to be recognized, she remained engrossed in her wrestling for what seem to be an eternity. She was weaving, bobbing, and body slamming with the best of them.
Finally, she glanced up at me and then immediately went back to her wrestling. Suddenly, she shook her head, looked back up at me, threw both hands into the air, and started shouting, “Glory hallelujah! Thank you Jesus!” Then she looked at me and said, “You’re the one!” And by this time I was backing up and I said, “Ma’am? I’m the one what?” And she said, “You’re the one who is going to marry my daughter – God has already shown you to me!” I said, “Ma’am, I’m not gonna marry your daughter – I’m just here for a date!”
That was in December. We started “going steady” in January. I asked her to marry me in February. And we would have gotten married in March but Mrs. Hale asked us to wait until June until Marianne completed the tenth grade.
I told you this story to remind you that as God’s children, even when we don’t know it, God has a plan for each of our lives. And as improbable as that plan may seem at the time, if we will allow Him, He will make it work. It hasn’t always been peaches and cream for Marianne and me. At times the struggles have been beyond description. But hey, forty years later we’re still standing. I guess Mrs. Hale knew what she was talking about!