Looking back on 45 years of marriage

Posted 4/28/19

Jilda and I celebrate our 45-wedding anniversary this week. Our first date was a warm night in May of 1968. It was the night I graduated from Dora High School. I picked her up in our family car. It …

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Looking back on 45 years of marriage


Jilda and I celebrate our 45-wedding anniversary this week. Our first date was a warm night in May of 1968. It was the night I graduated from Dora High School. I picked her up in our family car. It was a 1964 Plymouth Belvedere the color of an old penny. This was the beginning of our courtship.

After a few months, we started going steady. Neither of us was in a hurry, so we took it slow. Jilda's mom and dad were church folk and frowned on ballgames, movies, and anything that involved dancing. That reduced our options, but we were creative. 

We could go to Birmingham, but we had to be back in her yard by 9:30 p.m. At first, her dad watched me like I was an ax murderer out on bail. He seemed to spend a lot of time sharpening his pocket knife when I was around. Jilda thought it was nothing, but I heard his message loud and clear.

A few years later when I was old enough for the military draft, Uncle Sam pulled my lottery number. In April of that year, my head was shaved shorter than the fuzz on a peach, and I wore green everywhere. 

Jilda and I drifted apart. She was in college, and I was in Central America. We exchanged letters, but neither of us knew if we’d get back together when I returned. The only one in her family who had a crystal ball was her sister Nell, who said, “You will marry that boy one day.”

Not long after I returned home in 1973, I called her up and asked if she’d like to go out sometime. Her social calendar was busy, but she found the time.

It didn’t take long before we were an item again. The following spring, we started talking about getting married.  The week after Jilda's birthday on March 23, we decided to make it happen. We were going to the courthouse in Jasper, but on Wednesday, April 3, 1974, tornados ripped through Walker County and damaged the courthouse. We wound up going a few weeks later to Jefferson County to get the license. 

Then we both scheduled vacations for the first week of May. We were married on the front porch of Coy and Brenda Phillip’s trailer in Brewton. He’d once been the preacher where Jilda’s family attended church. 

We spent our honeymoon in a concrete cottage at Laguna Beach, Florida. The cottage had no air conditioning, so we made pallets on the screened porch and went to sleep each night listening to the sound of the whispering surf.

After the honeymoon, we headed back to our jobs in Alabama. I worked for The Community News in Sumiton, and Jilda worked at Keynote Fashions. Even with pooling both our paychecks, we barely cleared enough to make the payments on the trailer and keep the lights on. It wasn’t always easy, but we found our way.

People sometimes ask how we stayed married all these years. It’s not rocket surgery but here is my humble advice:

Marry someone who has similar interests and values. Listen. There are times you have to say I’m sorry, even if you don’t think you’re at fault. I do that sometimes and Jilda does, too. Learn to celebrate small victories. Live within your means. Find someone that you would consider a friend even if they weren’t your spouse. Don’t hold a grudge because that baggage is too heavy for a life journey.

Finally, a piece of advice for any men reading this – An umbrella is practical, but don’t make the mistake of giving one to your spouse as an anniversary gift.

Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book, "Life Goes On," is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at rick@rickwatson-writer.com.