That week in ’73 I wondered, “Will this really happen?”
Carol struggled to focus on her school work at Rogue River High School, while I slammed particle board sheets through a panel saw at a cabinet shop in Grants Pass.
It seemed like a dream when Carol’s mom agreed to legally emancipate her from her family. Carol was still 17.
Her father seethed about the two of us trying to elope. A quiet rage was building and he was ready to snap—again. But police ignored what we told them about his abusive ways. Things were different in ‘73. Abuse carried a stigma, but small-town authorities tried to ignore it rather than go public.
So Carol weathered the smoldering threat by herself at “home sweet home”—while dreaming about our new life together. We planned to marry the moment the clock struck a nanosecond past 12 on the day she turned 18. But we had to wait, so that the old man wouldn’t file charges against me. We had started dating when we were both 17—but I had turned 18 and was banned from seeing her. Carol slept each night wrapped up in her coat, ready to run.
Then one night Carol’s mom had called me!
I shivered in a phone booth, watching rain drizzle down the glass, stunned. “You can marry Carol, Richard.” Her voice sounded drained of all emotion. She sounded as if resigned to a horrible fate.
“The ceremony will be in two weeks at Wimer Chapel.” I wondered what finally awakened her to the danger Carol faced. Had something happened?
As I write this, I am reliving the longest week of my life.
I borrowed a suit and shoes. We got our blood tests. Carol’s mom frantically sewed a whole wedding dress. And I robotically cut lumber by day, and lay awake those nights before our cobbled-together ceremony. Then it came.
“Is there anyone here who knows a reason that this couple should not be joined?”
Reasons? I held my breath as the pastor stared over his glasses. He waited.
Oh, yeah—there were plenty of reasons. We were too young. We came from dysfunctional homes. Carol was a teenage girl who needed to finish high school. I was clueless and stubborn—barely 18 (and a know-it-all).
But on Friday, October 26, 1973, every “reason” stood silent as we kissed.
A scene from the Bible has since played in my mind:
I see the Pharisees standing mute, watching Jesus tell a paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven”—while logical “reasons” screamed in their heads. But reasons could not stop God’s grace from lifting the paralytic from his bed—forgiven of every sin.
In this same spotlight of God’s grace Jesus began healing us two children in need of saving, too.
Our marriage should have fallen to pieces somewhere during these last 45 years. We are well acquainted with others who looked for greener pastures (and some had little choice). But for us, God silenced the lips of fate, and rewarded us with a brand of love reserved for elders who commit to one another to the end.
Happy anniversary, Dear.