Altar Call - Opelika-Auburn News
June 1, 2008
June 1st 1952 was a Sunday. It was our wedding day. We were too young and carefree to care that family and friends would have to endure the sweltering heat of a church sanctuary not yet blessed with air-conditioning. And it never crossed our minds that our pastor already had enough to do on a Sunday. We had few thoughts for anyone but ourselves.
During the wedding ceremony the sultry air caused the candles to begin a meltdown. I told Dean the candles were bowing in humble admiration of her beauty as a bride.
I am a blessed man in a thousand ways. But one of my most precious blessings is that after 56 years I am still married to my first wife. How she has endured me all these years is a mystery. Some men have enjoyed a happy marriage with two or more wonderful women. One at a time of course. Hearing their stories makes me wonder if I could have done that. Probably not. I think 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
I don’t 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. She was a “city” girl, living in Wetumpka. I was a country boy so far from town that my school bus ride was an hour long. My friends said we had to pipe sunshine in.
In those formative years romance was not a distraction. She enjoyed her dolls and girl friends. I was enthralled with the adventures of the Lone Ranger and Tonto. When we started to school in 1938 the population of Wetumpka was about 2,500 on weekdays. On Saturdays when all of us country folks came to town to go to the "Picture Show," the population swelled to more than 4,000.
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 Estes on the playground. Harold usually won while Dean cheered 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 to this very day.
As we entered the teen years we began to notice each other more and more. How old we were when we first kissed, under a street light in Wetumpka, I do not recall. All I know is that one day I was madly in love with this beautiful brunette and wanted her to be my wife. How we ever waited until we were 20 to be married remains a mystery. 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. I wish I had been smart enough to marry her in the first grade.
As the years have come and gone we have been blessed with five sons, 12 grandchildren, and six great grandchildren. We have climbed some tall mountains and walked through some dark valleys together. Every step of the journey she has been a steady strength to me. Without her I would have died in any number of ditches back up the road.
While I have been “the preacher,” she has become a marvelous student of the Bible. I stand in awe of her gifts as a teacher of the way of Christ. She can make the Word come alive like few teachers I have known.
There is no easy way to describe how much it means to have Dean by my side. She has never failed to encourage me to do the right thing. From day one she has inspired me to believe in myself even when the bottom has fallen out of our life. More than once, when things had fallen apart, she was the first to say, "Let’s pick up the pieces and start over again; with God’s 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 express. Wednesday she will turn 76. Though her hair is grey she is still the prettiest thing I have ever seen. I want the world to know how thankful I am that 56 years ago she smiled and said, “I do.” With her the sweetness of life has been superb 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, sometimes stumbling, into the sunset. How good of God to allow this country boy to find such a remarkable city girl! + + +