Mr. Deford relates: "When the lights dimmed, I happened to glance over, and I saw that, right away, he'd taken Joanne's hand. They'd only been married 50 years. He kept holding her hand all the way through, just like they were teenagers.
I reached over and took my wife's hand. There are not many things any of us could do so well as Paul Newman, but, I thought, if you could follow his lead in any way, then you'd be a fool not to."
And as much as Karen and I love Mr. Deford's tale, it's not our favorite story about holding hands; our parents' love story will always be our favorite.
Below is a letter my mother wrote to her three children...and prepare yourself...because it's the MOST ROMANTIC thing ever. (Recently, I shared this letter with my church at our First Annual Talent and Pie Showcase...and many people--these same people who prayed with me when Mom's health was so fragile and the doctors only had bad news--told me afterwards that they loved her story or actually remembered those days at Dear Old Christian College.)
So here it is...one of our greatest treasures and family stories...and oh, so romantic. (Get a tissue.)
March 21, 2003
I suppose I could say that your father and I fell in love on a Sunday morning in November at “the College church”—or University church, as it is known nowadays. That was our first date. Or perhaps it was at Templeton’s Pharmacy, where your father worked for 60 cents an hour and where I went on the Saturday evening before our first date to order a hamburger (take-out) after I had missed the last bus back to the campus from a beauty shop on Mockingbird Lane and had to walk back to “the Hill,” arriving after the “bean” had closed for the evening. It was there that your father, who was working in the back of the fountain area of the drugstore, saw me sitting at a table waiting for my order to be prepared, and decided it would be a good time to wipe tables so he could seize the opportunity to invite me to church the next morning—he was too polite to ask me for a date for that same4 night. (Oh, yes, that was also the night that a foreign student from Iraq, a modern-day Goliath about 8’ tall, asked me to accompany him that same night to a theatre in Abilene—and I accepted! I didn’t tell your father about that for years, and he still seethes about it.)
Perhaps it was on the steps of the Ad Building at the following Tuesday night’s “devo” where we actually fell in love; but I believe Cupid’s arrow pierced my heart on the following Saturday night as your father and I went on a walk after he got off from his job at Templeton’s at 10 p.m. (remember, curfew was 11 p.m., so we only had one hour). We strolled hand in hand around the campus, stopping in the shadow of Bennett Gymnasium to look into one another’s face and talk eye to eye, and then as the hour neared its end, he ever so lightly pressed his lips to mine for an innocent, demure kiss which lasted not nearly long enough. I was hooked! He would be the last man on that campus that I would ever date! As the kiss ended, I thought I was seeing fireworks, but it was only the porch lights of McKinzie Dormitory flashing on and off, our signal that the doors were about to be locked and it was time for all female residents rimming the lawn to rush forward to get inside just in the nick of time to beat the clock; and as we bid one another goodnight, my Prince Charming asked for my company at the College church the next morning.
The young ladies’ handbook, which was given to all coeds, advised us that proper attire for worship on Sundays included hats, gloves, stockings and high heels. The next morning, I dressed appropriately and went down to the parlor to meet my date when the switchboard operator called my room to announce his arrival. During worship, I was impressed by his good voice as he sang tenor and I sang alto (“Hmmmm! We harmonize well. Could that be a good omen?”). As we settled in for a good sermon from Brother George W. Bailey (the campus minister on whom we could always count for a good message), I slipped my gloved hand out of your father’s hand and removed the glove, joining my bare hand with his again. At that moment, sparks of electricity flew as skin met skin. And you know what? Forty years later, I still feel those sparks of electricity when my hand touches his.
Neither of us had much money to spend, and our dates were usually to church or to the “bean” or to the “grill,” where we would check our mail and then order one coke and two straws, never costing us more than a quarter. We tried to go on dates to the library, but that was never very successful—his nearness interfered with my concentration; and mine, with his. There was only one destiny for us, and that was to blend our futures into one life, one love, one Lord. I thank God for His gift to me—a man who loves Him first and me next. He is a “living stone” in the Kingdom, standing for the Truth, and still holding my hand as we walk toward the uncertain days of our old age. But we both know Who holds tomorrow, and we know Who holds our hands.
Good night, my children. I love you,
(a/k/a/ Mrs. Thomas B. (Linda Greek) Fowler, Class of ‘64