Twenty years ago (Now twenty-four) my best friends were spending the weekend with me. I had invited them to come for a celebration, and at their own expense they did. Gary Kirkendall, Danny Dodd, and my brother Gary rode into town. In only a few hours we would all dress and stand in a line along with my soon to be nephew Chad Givens and minister Eddie Lewis. That certain song would play and then the back doors opened. It was the building that used to be the Hwy 8 Church of Christ in Cleveland, Mississippi. Another church owns it now. In a spectacular moment Dick Willingham walked his perfectly beautiful daughter Margaret down that long aisle, surrounded on either side by friends that filled the auditorium.
Funny things were going on at the time that we didn’t know. Sometime during the ceremony the top layer of the wedding cake slid off into the floor. Some industrious ladies worked feverishly to get it cleaned up before we came into the room. During the reception one of my “friends” executed their plan on my car. I had a small Pontiac T-1000 (Pontiac’s version of a Chevette). There was the shaving cream, watermelons under the wheels, string tying the doors shut, and a massacre. Yes it was either Chad or Gary (both blame the other) who thought it would be great if there were some live crickets in the car. Thankfully (for us, not the crickets) the blazing hot July day in the Delta roasted those poor creatures, else my bride would not have gotten into the car. All was caught on video taken by Gary Henderson. I’m glad he did that video. There were people there that we didn’t remember….our minds were occupied with other things.
Some serious things were going on as well. Another beauty that walked down that aisle that Summer afternoon was Margaret’s daughter Nicole. She was ten years old. Only now as Nicole’s daughter Claire nears that same age am I beginning to realize the huge significance of this event in her life. I can picture what it meant that now Nicole would be a part of a newly formed family … just as Claire is now a part of a newly formed family. I can sympathize with Margaret’s parents … who had helped raise Nicole … but now had to release her into new surroundings. It hasn’t been easy to release Claire to another household … even though it is only right that she be with her mother. I am amazed that Margaret’s parents still love me after I did that to them. But what did I know? Looking back, not much.
And twenty years later I feel that a new milestone has been set. I know that many people have been married far longer … but our journey belongs to us. I can’t imagine life with anyone else. We’ve survived a lot together. We’ve been blessed and loved by many people along the way. There are no promises of another twenty years … or even twenty days. I could list my mistakes here, but I would feel terribly unoriginal. After twenty years we know one another’s faults well. We’re not together because of our faults … but because of the gifts that God has given to us in each other.
So, Margaret, thank you for blessing my life for twenty years. I hope we do have twenty more together. I still have a lot of growing to do as a husband and friend … and I’d like for you to reap the benefit of your years of influence on my heart. If we drank, I’d toast you with a glass of champagne. If we gambled I’d put a fortune on lucky number seven and roll the dice. If we danced I’d do the tango with you. If we were famous, I’d walk you down the red carpet. If we were criminals we’d ride like Bonnie and Clyde across the countryside. If we were swashbucklers we would sail across the Carribean in search of treasures. If we were rock stars we’d bust a hundred guitars. If we were bums, I’d share my last can of beans with you. If we were televangelists, we’d raise a billion bucks together. But, we’re just us. To some it may sound boring by comparison, but I wouldn’t trade my life with you for any other.
I love you Maggy. That is my choice. You are my choice and always will be.
John Dobbs, July 18, 2007