Altar Call - Opelika-Auburn News
for Sunday, June 4, 2000
Walter Albritton

"After 48 years I am glad I am still married to my first wife"

I am a blessed man in a hundred ways. But one of my greatest blessings is that after 48 years I am still married to my first wife, and so glad that she has endured me for nearly half a century.

Some men I have known have enjoyed a happy marriage with two or more wonderful women. One at a time of course. Hearing their stories always makes me wonder if I could have done that. Probably not. I have an idea my wife Dean is the only woman God ever made who could have put up with me.

Dean says she will never marry again after she puts me away. She says, "It took me so long to train you that I would not have the time left to train another man." No doubt she is right.

I donít actually know when I fell in love with Dean. We were delivered by the same doctor, in the same county, in the same year, 1932. I was born in late March and she arrived in early June. Reliable sources say Dean began talking at an early age, and that her first words were not "Mama," or "Daddy," but "Where is Walter?"

Whether that is true or not we found each other when we were children by starting to school together. Since her last name was Brown, and the children were seated alphabetically, we sat near each other in most of our classes.

In those formative years romance was not a distraction to us. She enjoyed her dolls and girl friends while I was enthralled with the idea of riding with the Lone Ranger and Tonto. Then too she was a "city" girl and I a "country" boy, even though Wetumpka, Alabama, is still not large enough to be called a city. When we were growing up, the population of Wetumpka was about 3,000 on weekdays, and 5,000 on Saturdays when all of us country folks would come to town to go to the "Picture Show."

About all I can remember from my childhood years is that I was always a sweet, precious little boy who never got into trouble. Dean has a better memory than mine. She remembers that at recess during school days I would get into fist fights with Harold on the playground -- and that Harold usually won while Dean was cheering him on. Harold lived next door to Dean and they climbed trees together, though I suppose they were too young for any monkey business. At least that is what she maintains.

As we entered the teen years we began to notice each other more and more. How old we were when we first kissed, I do not recall. All I know is that one day I was madly in love with her and wanted her to be my wife. How we ever waited until we were 20 to be married is still a mystery. But persuading her to marry me was the greatest achievement of my first 20 years. I have disappointed her many times, but I have never once wanted anyone else to be the "first lady" of my life.

As the years have come and gone, we have been blessed with five sons, 12 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. We have climbed some tall mountains and walked through some mighty dark valleys together, and she has been a steady strength in my life. Without her I would have died in any number of ditches back up the road.

There is no way really to describe what it means to have someone by your side, always encouraging you to do the right thing, and always helping you believe in yourself, even when the bottom has fallen out of your life. More than once, when things had fallen apart for us, she was the first to say, "Letís pick up the pieces and start over again; with Godís help we can go on." And go on we did, though often it was she who was leading the way because my vision was blurred by tears of disappointment and heartbreak.

So today I salute the "first lady" of my life with a gratitude words are inadequate to describe. On this day she turns 68, but to me she is still just as pretty as she was at 18. I want the world to know how glad I am that I am still married to my first wife after 48 years. With her the sweet has been wonderful and the bitter has been bearable. How many years remain I do not know. I just know that I want to spend them all with her as we walk on into the sunset.