27 years ago my wife and I were married in Ponca City, OK at the Hartford Ave. Church of Christ. Finding a woman who is capable of putting up with me this long is a rare find. I’m sure most would have thrown in the towel years ago. I am not the easiest person to live with, and I am deeply honored that she stuck with me. My other blog (Poems, Songs, and Things I Believe In) has a song I wrote for her on this occasion. In this post, I just thought I would share some of my memories and pictures.
We met at Oklahoma Christian during the fall semester of 1988. I was fresh out of the Marine Corps, and a total stranger to the Christian School environment. Paula was one of my first friends, and we’ve been together ever since. Both of us are shy people, but Paula was the first to make the move of asking me out on a date. I think I was the one to make most of the first moves from that point on.
We were engaged on Valuntine’s Day 1989. It was a long engagement. Perhaps too long for those trying to live by Christian standards, but somehow we managed.
We’ve gone through all sorts of changes together including moving 16 times.
This is a picture of the first house we lived in. Our first child was a dog named Maynard. I’ve always wanted a dog of my own, and when I saw a little Rottweiler mix at the fleet market, I just had to have him. The problem was the apartment we lived in didn’t allow pets. We hid him for a while, but eventually we had to move. Our house was not a nice house. We had to insist that the landlord get the cockroaches out. The floor was so rotted out that our water heater in the bathroom decided to fall through the floor. Yep. We were broke college students and the landloord wasn’t about to fix the situation, so I put it up some 2 X 4’s and that solved the problem for the time being.
Maynard, didn’t like the garbage men for some reason and every time they would come by he got quite vicious. Twice he broke the window trying to get those evil men. After the second time, we decided just to board up the window and leave it till we had to move. I hope this doesn’t make us white trash. We had our first and only garden there. It resembled a jungle, but it did produce lots of stuff, including the hottest peppers I’ve ever eaten.
One of our not so bright ideas was the decision to have a child at that point in our lives. I hold the Oakridge Boys personally responsible for this decision since they came up with that song, “Thank God for Kids.” We soon had to move again. Things were not going well with this landlord who refused to help us in anyway to make some very needed repairs. We couldn’t imagine living their with a child. So we moved to Oklahoma City.
We managed to move while Paula was very pregnant. We were still full-time students highly stressed out, but we did what we had to do. The house was better, but I wasn’t going outside after dark.
Tabitha was born May 18th at St. Francis Hospital. We had read all the books, taken parenting classes and the whole bit. We even went took Lamaze classes which were a complete waste of time. Trying to get your wife to breathe right during labor will get you killed. She wasn’t listening, and I thought she was going to kill me–seriously. Lesson learned: life never goes like the textbook. A lesson that has proven itself time and time again in my world.
Tabitha was born after 20 some hours of labor. She would not nurse, and man alive was she cranky. My first nick name for her was Cabby Tabby. We would not figure out her stomach problems for over two years.
Having a baby while going to school full-time is one of the most foolish decisions we made as a couple. It was very hard on our marriage, and our final semester was our worst. It was the only semester that I could not get straight A’s. If it weren’t for Paula’s parents helping out, I don’t know how we would have gotten through.
The above picture is our graduation day. Paula’s parents are on the left of us, my mom and step dad Larry are to the right of us, and that his my grandfather on the far right. Little Tabitha is center stage. My father and sister also made the journey for this occasion, but there was no way my mother was going to allow her picture to be taken with my dad. I remember it was on that day that my father taught us how a one-handed man counts change. There’s no denying where I get my sense of humor.
I graduated Summa Cum Laude, and getting that degree is one of my greatest accomplishments. It’s not so much that I got a degree, but when you figure in that I had a 1.56 gpa in High School, and I was in mostly special ed classes, it becomes quite significant.
Looking back on it now, I think those times were just preparation for all the other things we would face during our marriage. It was kind of like Bootcamp in the Marines; it was tough, but tougher times were ahead that would make bootcamp like child’s play.
In Oct. 1994, Caleb was born. He was born in Forrest City, AR. I was working at a church in Wynne, AR. This completed our family. My two children are about as different as me and Paula; they always have been. Even at the early stages I can look back now and see how their personalities were formed at such an early age. Just look at that mischievous smile on Tab’s face.
It’s been quite a ride over the years. ‘We’ve lived in 6 states and several towns within those states. We’ve always struggled financially, but we’ve always managed to get by. I don’t think we’ve made the best choices, but still we’ve survived.
As a child of divorce, I desperately wanted a family that would stay together, and we have. When Paula and I first got together Ray Boltz was one of our favorite Christian singers. He had a song called, “The Ancor Holds” that I think describes our years together. “The anchor holds, though the ship is tatored. The anchor hold’s, though the sails have torn.”
We’ve had lots of good times and bad times over the years, but the most important thing to me is that we’ve gone through the times together. We’ve lots of memories and more on the way. I was taught as a young man the principle of the buddy system. Sometimes we’d have to sleep by leaning up against each other’s backs. The idea solidified with me: I watch your back; you watch mine. That’s us!!! Watching each other’s back. When I’ve been weak, she’s been strong and visa versa.
It reminds me of another song I wrote years ago: “Together We will stand.”
Together we will stand
Far stronger than we can alone
If we simply walk hand in hand
Our God will lead us home
We will fail if we try to make it,
By the strength of our own hand
But with God and each other,
Together we will stand.
Together we have stood, and I am so honored to have the wife that I do. Love ya Paula
This is Tabitha Christmas 1994. I am always amazed at how much she looks just like her daughter, Grace. Tabitha had longer hair, and she wasn’t quite as happy as Grace, but it feels like I am getting to watch my daughter grow up a second time.
This picture was taken when we lived in Wynne, AR. This was right before we moved to Tulsa. Caleb is his big ole cowboy boots.
This was one family picture when we lived in Wynne. I was in one of my exercise phases, so I was pretty thin back then. This was when I could carry both children up Petti Jean Mountain. I had one in a backpack and the other in my arms. Precious memories.
This was a family collage taken when we lived in Rock Island. It was befor Paula cut her hair, I lost weight, and Caleb outgrew me. We took a lot of pictures in that park and I’m really glad we did.
This picture was taken at Sunset Park in Rock Island, IL when the kids were older and I was fatter.
This final picture is one that I consider as one of my greatest accomplishments and it speaks to me on so many different levels. It is a picture of my biological parents and their descendants. Getting my mother to be in a picture with my father is equivalent to walking on water. I’ve tried a number of times, but when I see rage in my mother’s eyes, I have to back off. You notice they are on opposites sides. My mother is far left, my father is far right. This is not a coincidence.
My only biological brother is standing to the left of my father. Not only was it difficult to get my parents together, but getting all my brothers children together at the same time was quite a task too. This is because my brother’s children come from three different women, and they don’t always get together. My brother’s oldest son is holding his child by a woman that he is no longer with. He has at least one other child by another woman, and he is not with her anymore either.
My brother’s daughter is now a mother too. But she is not with the father, nor is she with her son. She’s had a bad drug problem, and currently there is a warrant out for arrest for various crimes largely involving members of her own family.
I’m not trying to pick fault here, and I certainly don’t mean to offend my brother or his family. However, as a man who is currently taking care of other people’s children who are largely here for reasons related to divorce, I understand just how incredibly important it is for families to stick together.
My brother’s other daughter is also a mother, but she has been with the same guy for quite a while which is really good to see, and I hope it stays that way.
Marriage is not always easy, but when you make it through the storms, there’s a beautiful rainbow.