She played the piano in the small Long Beach, California church that Sunday, the same as she did every Sunday. Unbeknownst to her, she was being watched. As she played the musical notes, mental notes were being taken of her style and grace. The observer was impressed. At the conclusion of the service, the elderly spectator approached the musician; a brief conversation ensued, and the observer asked if her grandson could write the pianist.
That fateful interaction between my great-grandmother (the observer) and my mom (the pianist) was the start of a long distance relationship between my mother (a high school senior), and my dad (a recent high school graduate). Over the next 4-5 years, my parents developed a mutual attraction and admiration for one another. They exchanged countless letters and pictures, met each other’s family, and occasionally visited. My mom was impressed by my dad’s ambition and commitment to God; likewise, my dad admired my mom’s beauty, musical talents, and commitment to education.
My dad lived in various locales during their relationship including: Kansas, Illinois, Korea, California, and Tennessee. My mom remained in California, graduated from college, and began teaching. Dad went to college, joined the armed forces, and began pastoring. They dated other people, contemplated other long term commitments, and life went on-but their friendship remained intact.
After corresponding for many years, my dad received a call from his dad informing him there was a rumor my mother was engaged. (It was false). As they discussed the news, my grandfather spoke very highly of my mom. He said if he were in the market for a wife, he would marry someone like her. His words resonated with my dad. Shortly thereafter, my dad proposed to my mother in the most romantic way imaginable-over the phone. She said yes. He sent the engagement ring via a cousin who had a previously scheduled trip to California. The romance was palpable.
Six months later, in August 1975, they wed. As they planned the wedding, my mom told my dad she wanted to spend their two-week honeymoon in Hawaii. My dad wanted to ensure she had the beach honeymoon she dreamed of so they went to Long Beach, California (20 miles from her home). From Long Beach, they drove to Kansas City where they stayed in the basement of my grandparents’ house. Each morning while in Kansas, my dad woke up bright and early and spent the entire day…working with my granddad. At the conclusion of their honeymoon, they left Kansas and traveled to Memphis where they began their life together in a tiny apartment above their church.
My parents have been married for over 40 years and have experienced ups and downs: they had 6 children, lived in four states, pastored several churches, and mourned the loss of their grandparents and 3 of their parents (my dad’s dad died in a tragic accident a few months after their wedding). Through it all their love for each other remained constant.
They didn’t have a fairy-tale romance, but their humble beginning led to a deeper appreciation of what is important. Love seldom occurs the way we imagine; however, if we are lucky enough to find love that lasts a lifetime, all the trials, tribulations, and missteps are worth it.
Happy Valentine’s Day! What is your love story?