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Column: Side by side

Revised on: 06.18.2018 at 12:09 p.m.

Posted on: 06.12.2018 at 11:00 a.m.

By Jefferson Weaver

It had been a day worth forgetting, in anyone’s book.

It wasn’t just a matter of nothing going right, but a couple of fairly important things had gone entirely, catastrophically wrong. Oddly enough, none of the blame rested on my side of the coin, although I can usually find some way to bear the responsibility for a disaster. Despite my own innocence, I was the one left to clean up the messes, make amends, mend the fences and dry the tears. It was a bit overwhelming.

As is my wont, I sat in my grandfather’s chair, my forehead in my hands. A hand squeezed my shoulder.

“It’ll be all right,” Miss Rhonda quietly said, and somehow, I knew it would.

They were words we have said to each other any number of times in our 26-plus years together. I cannot tell you the first time either of us had to reassure the other, but it was likely even before our wedding day, which we’ll celebrate this Saturday, Lord willing.

I find it strange how I have become a little more rawboned and a lot grayer, but she still looks and sounds the same as she did that miserably hot June day, despite the penance and pain of being married to me.

It’s funny how I remember so starkly some of the times one or the other of us said “It’ll be all right.” Most of them were tough times, of course: during a particularly nasty hurricane, when she was working at a shelter and I was home, just before the phones died. Or when we had a flat tire at 10:30 p.m. and the only place to get it fixed was reminiscent of the type of service station known for mysterious disappearances. Or when a house party turned into a block party and a near-riot in our neighborhood in Wilmington, and we guarded our home with a big dog and loaded guns. Or when we were confronted with a herd of 50 starving horses, or a single sickly puppy. Or when a parent was sick. Or when our home flooded during a hurricane. Or when not a darn thing would go right, regardless of prayer and pleas and promises.

And you know something? It always is all right. Somehow, someway, it always is.

We haven’t always been that way, I guess. It took a spiritual slap-upside-the-head before we realized that our marriage vows were taken before God first, and our family and friends second. We still struggle sometimes—but we struggle together.

The Old Man reminded me repeatedly how one of the problems with his first marriage was a lack of support for each other. With Miss Lois, however, that was entirely different. They worked side by side, they moved together as one, and were rarely thought of as individuals, so much as one of a couple, a pair, a team.

Theirs was never perfect, of course – even with my limited experience, I know there is no such thing as a perfect earthly marriage—but I can honestly say my folks had a marriage to be envied. So do my in-laws. Miss Rhonda and I try to follow those examples.

It took some adaptation, of course, but through the years we have learned to not just tolerate, but enjoy many of the same things. This goes even for the tastes and hobbies that were utterly foreign to the young editor of an upstart newspaper and the radio DJ who were introduced –under false pretense – by mutual friends. I cannot say my wife will ever prefer Scrapple to fatback, nor will I ever completely reconcile chicken pastry to dumplings, but sweating the small stuff benefits no one.

Something else my dad told me sticks out when I hear of friends having problems with their spouses.

A neighbor of ours, bless his heart, was somewhat tyrannical in the way he handled his family. Without going into detail, he even considered it a sin if his wife walked beside him in public. When she died, however, he was a lost man.

Papa told me one time – well before Rhonda and I met – that a man doesn’t need a wife to walk two steps behind him, since he can’t help her into the car if she’s back there lost somewhere. At the same time, she can’t offer the comfort and counsel of a godly woman if he has to turn back over his shoulder to find her.

“You want a wife who will be there beside you,” he said. “You want her where you can hold each other’s hand.”

And that’s where, God willing, Miss Rhonda will stay for the rest of our lives, if I have anything to say about the matter. I want her right close, and bless her heart, she wants me beside her. That way, when the storms roar, the coyotes howl, or the whole dang world goes crazy, we can each turn to the other and say, “It’ll be all right.”

Happy anniversary, Dolly. I love you.

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