Where did I leave off?
James Wright and Laverne Ross were married the following October. They remained married from October 3, 1953 until Granddad passed away on Mother’s Day, May 9, 2004. Those 50+ years held some amazing memories, gave them 8 children, many grandchildren, and several great grandchildren.
Now, Mamaw’s mom and sister weren’t too keen on her being with Granddad initially. After all, she was the tender age of 19, and he was “a man.” He was already 23 and on his own in Louisville. They came around. Knowing Granddad, you’d understand why. That age difference, though? It wasn’t the only difference about them.
Uncle Chuck said it best. He said, “Momma never meets a stranger. Daddy? He met them. Even if he knew them….” Mamaw is the quintessential, outgoing extrovert. Lots of easy small talk. No awkward silences. Fast friends. Granddad, however, wasn’t exactly what you might call a people person. He was an introvert who sometimes came across as arrogant. Speaking as an introvert, I cannot count the number of times in high school alone someone said to me, “Well, you’re not as stuck up as I thought you were.” I’m beginning to realize this may have been a familial trait. Uncle Chuck and Aunt Beverly talked about, however, how Granddad didn’t have an arrogant bone in his body. Those differences–that need to talk coupled with the desire not to talk–were traits they brought to their new marriage. Those traits and so many more. There was bound to be some adjustment.
Mamaw remembered Granddad having gone to work and she had made a pot of stew. Mamaw said, “We sat down and took a bite. It had a real good taste. We just chewed and chewed and chewed and chewed. And Jimmy, he was so kind. He didn’t want to hurt my feelings. I looked at him, and he looked at me. And, you know me. I giggled.
Then he giggled. There was no way we could eat that stew.” Learning to cook was an adjustment I’m sure she isn’t alone in experiencing as a new spouse. Goodness knows I had (still have?) my fair share of kitchen blunders. Wade (my husband) loves the story Dad has told about how Granddad had said, “[Mamaw] turned into a pretty good cook. That, or I got used to it.”
When we marry, we have to learn and grow together. Not just with our cooking, cleaning, and simple habits. We each bring our own individualities, likes, and dislikes into the marriage. When we hold onto ourselves and refuse to give into the other and learn from the other or grow with the other, that is when our troubles often rear their ugly heads.
Ephesians 5:21-23, 25,28
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it: So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife, loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourish and cherish it, even as the Lord the church.
The Bible tells us to submit fully to one another. We so often see these verses and stop at “Wives submit to your husbands” and balk, period. However, when we read the rest, it’s easier to give yourself fully to someone who loves you like Christ loved the Church. If we enter marriage, both of us, with that mindset, good things are bound to happen. Good things like Mamaw and Granddad’s first Christmas together.
The first Christmas they were married, Mamaw asked about putting up a Christmas tree. This was something Granddad’s family had just never done. He told her, “I can’t make no Christmas tree. Don’t know how.” It was something he just didn’t understand and, therefore, didn’t value. However, she did. Plain and simple. She went to work that Monday. She remembered it well because she recalled coming in off the bus about 9:30 that evening. She was walking up the stairs to their apartment and saw all the pine needles on the stairway. At this point, my imagination may have taken over just a little bit. I imagine Mamaw took each step with a touch of excitement. Each new step with pine needles was more confirmation of what she hoped. Maybe she didn’t want to get her hopes up but couldn’t help herself. Heart pounding with anticipation, she finally reached her door seeing that, thankfully, the pine needles hadn’t stopped somewhere else along the way. She opened the door, and there was the tree. “The biggest thing you ever saw.” Guys, my eyes swam with warm tears that surely tasted sweet instead of salty after listening to this story. Who would have ever thought a trail of pine needles could be even more romantic and infused with love than a trail of roses? He, not valuing the idea of a Christmas tree at all knew it was important to her. Because he loved her, he went out and got one. THAT. That is the love we should show one another. Not just husbands either. We wives, and I’m speaking to myself here I do believe, would do well to remember to show the same type of non-expecting, fully-giving, one-sided love he showed in that moment. She went on to say, “Momma gave us some Christmas balls. I got a discount on some stuff where I worked. We decorated it. It was a beauty.” When I asked if he helped decorate it, it was like she said, “Duh” first when she said, “Yeah.” It was a given. Why wouldn’t he help decorate it when he knew what it meant? Mamaw, Dad, Uncle Chuck, and Aunt Beverly went on to talk about how Granddad always helped decorate for Christmas, hanging Christmas lights on the house and so much more. They always had a Christmas tree from there on out. That Christmas tree was a difference initially. Something one had experienced and expected that the other did not. Something that could have caused an argument. Something that could have ended with an obligatory “eye roll” act of kindness. You know exactly what I’m talking about. The ones we do because we feel obligated but don’t really want to? However, Granddad knew it was important to Mamaw. He honored that. Respected that. He demonstrated his love for her in that simple act.
Taking time to demonstrate and recognize those simple acts of love in a marriage are important. They are what get us through hard times because there are bound to be hard times. Some more difficult than others. Some may not even seem difficult at all when we look back on them.
Dad remembered when he and Uncle Timmy and Uncle Tony were the only ones left at home. He said he was in his room when some arguing woke him up. It wasn’t so much Granddad as it was Mamaw. Granddad had brought home some recipe another man’s wife had cooked. It was a dish Mamaw already made. This just didn’t set well with Mamaw. At this point, guys, I felt like I was reliving moments from my own marriage! When I recounted this story to Wade, he looked at me with raised eyebrows interested in the ending of this same old story. I’m beginning to wonder if we aren’t the only two couples out there who’ve done this after all…. Granddad, no doubt exasperated, said, “Well, I just wanted you to try it, Verne.” She ran off in the bedroom and cried. All marriages, old and new, come with arguments. None of us are immune to them. Pretending we are would be setting ourselves up for failure. We all handle them differently, too.
Be ye angry, and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath
Did you notice that God doesn’t tell us here not to be angry? Oh, I believe He knows better. He knows His creation better than all that. We are human. We get angry. We have righteous anger to be certain. However, we also have some really petty and ridiculously unrighteous anger at times. Ephesians reminds us not to sin when we are angry and not to let the sun go down on that. While there are different interpretations of “not let the sun go down,” I must say I like the literal interpretation of not going to bed angry. How you handle your anger and arguments, I’ve learned, says a lot about your relationship.
When asked how Mamaw and Granddad handled arguing, Mamaw giggled just a little. Aunt Bev asked who argued, who stopped, who left. “Oh, I could keep on going and going….He said his peace and he was done. I know sometimes he probably just wanted to smack me.” She paused for an affectionate chuckle, no doubt remembering many arguments throughout the course of their marriage. Then….pause for dramatic effect…the garage was mentioned. Granddad would “say his peace,” be done, and escape to the garage, where, Uncle Chuck pointed out, Mamaw sometimes would follow him 🙂 After all, and I’m imagining she’s like me here, she wasn’t done saying her peace. When asked how they made up and who apologized, this is where Granddad’s pride entered the story, “Oh, He never came in and said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ I don’t think he had the words. He would just come around, play, tease, and pick.”
Thinking of my own marriage and arguments and, gulp, pride — maybe it’s a familial thing, and I can blame it on Granddad — I asked, “Did it make you mad, at that moment, when he would start teasing and picking instead of saying sorry?” I mean, when Wade doesn’t apologize, our argument isn’t settled, and THEN he starts to tease and pick at me, I become an irritable grizzly. I was curious how Mamaw handled that.
And be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
If you’ve ever seen a cartoon with the overly animated girl have a sparkle in her eye when she sees her crush, that was my Mamaw in this moment. She sat up with a school-girl grin and a slow shake of her head and said, “Oh, no….” I couldn’t stifle my own giggles as I realized that she loved every minute of his teasing and picking. Granddad didn’t have to say the words for her to know his heart. She forgave just the same. Apparently, so did he. To say I was humbled in that moment is an understatement. She showed him grace in those moments, and no doubt, he showed her the same. That’s how to get over anger. That’s how to grant forgiveness. Grace.
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend
We weren’t put on this Earth alone. We have friends. We have family. We have our spouse. In the same way iron can sharpen iron, we can help improve one another. In fact, it’s kind of our duty. As husband and wife, that cannot be lost on us. We are here for one another. That glorious opportunity definitely wasn’t lost on Mamaw and Granddad.
Mamaw and Granddad were young when they married, not uncommon for their time. They grew up together and simply grew together. One place their growth was most evident was in their faith. Church was not something they attended together regularly until most of their children were grown and gone. This was shocking to me as I always remember seeing a Bible laying out in their home and scripture discussed in most conversations. However, Mamaw recounted when Granddad just felt something wasn’t right with him. He talked with their preacher. He had been saved before at another church but never baptized. He felt he needed to follow through with that final part of God’s command. Mamaw took time to encouraged him. She wouldn’t let him settle on that feeling. Years later, when Mamaw felt the conviction of a lost soul and wanted to stop going to church because it just wasn’t right for her to teach Sunday school if she was lost, Granddad wouldn’t let her give up. He told her she needed to go on to church, that’s where she needed to be. It would have been easy to give in and let it be. Let her slide back and even stay home with her on Sundays now that their children were grown and leaving home. Yet, he chose not to do that. He chose to challenge her “countenance” and push her to do what was right. We all need someone like that on our side who won’t let us give in and give up. Mamaw was thankful for the way they pushed one another. She said it made their faith stronger and their marriage better.
Aunt Beverly summed Mamaw and Granddad and their relationship up nicely. They were opposites. He was a country boy; she was a city girl. He was a quiet introvert; she was the outgoing extrovert. They needed one another. They were one another’s complement. I am so thankful I had them to look to in my life.
Thank you for taking the time to read. I know I broke all the blog rules on length with this post. Forgive me for taking the opportunity to selfishly linger over my grandparents’ story. I pray that God has used something from their lives to speak to you the way He has spoken to me. I pray that He guides you and I both down a path to longer and happier marriages, no matter where they currently are. Until we meet again next month to look at another couple. God Bless.
Mamaw’s Advice to Other Couples
When you’re thinking about getting married, first and foremost, ask God about it first. Then, when you do meet, take time to get to know each other. Don’t rush it. Make sure he loves or at least tries to like some of the same things you do. And, for Pete’s sake, don’t go to bed angry.