A love story 50 Years in the making
Then one day a little boy met a little girl.
The weather was sunny, the bride stunning. The cake was Duncan Hines, and, when the whole wedding affair ended, the new couple would leave the little white country church in a metallic blue '62 Chevy Impala hardtop and speed toward a new life of their making.
But that's getting ahead of the story.
Before my parents made it to the aisle, they first had to make it to each other. And life wasn't going to make that easy. The first hit came when my grandmother Opal, my father's mother, died.
He was only four.
And the second hit came at the loss of my grandfather, my mother's father, Don.
She was only six.
As small children, they were now without the parents they still so desperately needed. There were hugs and snuggles and bedtime stories they wouldn't get. Dad wouldn't have his mother to kiss away his tears, and Mom wouldn't have her father to pick her up when she fell. There was a loss of nurturing, a loss of protection, and half of themselves they'd never know as adults.
But, soon, someone to help heal that hurt was coming. Very soon, that little boy without a mom...
…would meet that little girl without a Dad.
Loving The Tender Places:
One of the most beautiful things I've witnessed in my parents' marriage has been their care and tenderness for those early painful places in each other.
Mom delights in babying Dad (make no mistake, he delights in this, too). She daily spoils him. When I've asked her why, she says she wants Dad to feel the care and love he didn't get as a child. She looks at the extra effort as an honor, not an obligation.
Dad, in turn, always makes Mom feel safe. Whether he agrees with her fears or anxieties or not, it doesn't matter. He never dismisses them or mocks them or tries to "fix" them. He accepts her need for security knowing she lost it too early. He does this without a single complaint or exaggerated sigh.
The War Between Them
Mom and Dad met young. She was 14, he just shy of 18. It was the tumultuous, protest and counter-protest time of the 1960s. There was a war on. A horrible, bloody, seemingly unending war. And, in the midst of all of that, there was a boy and a girl falling in love.
They had a year together - a year of social gatherings and church functions - and then the war came for him, too.
Dad would end up in South Korea and Mom would end up waiting.
She never dated another man. While he was gone for two years, she prayed for him. She wrote him every day. And she waited.
Loyal In Absence:
It has never mattered if my parents were in the same room or the same country, they have always remained loyal to each other.
This goes so far beyond the most basic expectation of not breaking a marriage vow. It's a commitment to be each other's safe place. To be the other person's haven. Where they can go and to whom they can turn when they need to be vulnerable.
You'll never hear my parents ever criticize the other behind their back. Mom doesn't vent about her husband to girlfriends, and Dad doesn't disrespect his wife with the guys.
Not ever. Not even as a joke.
They are each other's biggest champions and fiercest protectors whether there's only a wall between them or an entire ocean.
Here Comes The Bride
After four years of waiting, Glenn and Vickie (Wright) Thompson married on June 6, 1969, inside a small church in Henryetta, Oklahoma where the sun was brilliant and the decorations modest.
The service was simple. The entire wedding cost $200, including the borrowed wedding gown. With all their siblings, half-siblings, step-siblings, and extended family around, the two finally became husband and wife.
From that day until now, they've never left each other's side for any reason outside of emergencies. Mom even jokes about how, after the ceremony, Grandma couldn't get Dad to leave the room so Mom could change into her going away outfit - a white shift dress and lace jacket with yellow daisies she'd made herself.
"She told him he needed to step out of the room. He said, 'No, I'm married now. I don't have to get out.'"
And so it was. The man had waited long enough for his bride.
Love Without Limits:
I don't know of a single thing my parents wouldn't do for each other. I've never seen them withhold from the other anything that was needed and, if within their power, anything that was wanted.
It's been a life in service to each other.
Neither believes the other is perfect, but they don't view themselves as perfect, either. Instead, they view each other through the lens of kindness.
This simple but humbling mindset could, quite possibly, be what has blessed them with five decades of a beautiful, peaceful, joy-filled relationship.
The Rest Of The Story
It would be four more years, a struggle with infertility, and a lot of tears and prayers before they'd welcome their first child - my brother, Brendon.
I refer to these years before me as The Family Dark Ages. As you can see by their saddened faces, they felt my absence, too.
Okay, maybe it's more evident here.
Just take my word for it. They’re happier with me existing.
The Happily Ever After:
They haven't lived with the winds always at their backs. They've struggled through illnesses, financial losses, family deaths, friend losses, and their share of brokenheartedness, like everyone.
Providing for his family took from my dad buckets of sweat and the occasional bloodletting. For Mom, it took no ceasing of manual labor.
In 1979, we lost everything to a house fire. In 1992, they were seconds from losing me. In 2003, we watched Dad wheeled away for brain surgery with the possibility he'd never come back. And nearly didn't.
But, as a young family, we had our share of good times, too. Like standing in front of latticework because we were in a family wedding and it's what you do at those things.
Or that year we took a family vacation to 1889.
Through all of it, Mom and Dad have continued to do one thing consistently no matter what new challenges came:
Serve each other.
Coming from a mere observer, I think that made everything else in life sweeter, too. Like when they sang together in a gospel quartet.
Or simply set down for a meal.
(Mom's an amazing cook and Dad is a fan.)
That kind of servant-relationship is what has helped them grow together instead of apart. And helped Mom survive the experimental years when Dad decided to grow a beard:
And then shave it all off.
Their love story might be a simple one, but it's a classic.
Real love, the kind that shows up with passion on an uneventful Tuesday, never goes out of style.
Happy Golden Anniversary Mom and Dad!
I love you more than all these words and pictures combined. You are the best people I'll ever know. Your life has made your daughter so very proud.