February 14, 2013 10:32:48 AM
Carmen K. Sisson - [email protected]
They are easy in the spaces between words, no need to rush, no rush to be. They have -- have had -- a lifetime together.
And it turned out fine, Willie Brown says, gazing at his wife, Hazel. It turned out fine.
They joke about what they should give one another for this, their 67th wedding anniversary. She'd like to trade out her 85-year-old knees. As for him, she thinks his 90-year-old ears could use a hearing aid.
They laugh as they settle into a plush love seat at their apartment in Trinity Retirement Center. Yes, it's Valentine's Day. Yes, it's their anniversary. But it's also Thursday. Preceded by Wednesday, followed by Friday, slipping in line with the 24,471 other days they have shared as husband and wife.
There was no reason to expect them to date at all. His brother, Frank, married her sister, Gladys, and they found themselves thrown together often, but he was the first to realize that the girl he was seeking just might be sitting across from him.
While she worked at a drug store in Fayette, Ala., he was part of the United States Navy's war effort, serving in the Philippines aboard aircraft carrier USS Suwanee. During a visit home on leave, he opened his eyes and saw stars.
What came afterward is a little hazy. Maybe they went to Fayette. Maybe they went to a dance. It's been so many years, she says. Who can remember that first date?
Five weeks later, Feb. 14, 1946, they stood in front of the justice of the peace in Columbus and began a lifetime of firsts.
He went to work at A&P, she went to work at home and the house filled with the fruits of their shared labor. Three daughters. Five grandchildren. Four great-grandchildren.
"We tried to live a life that was pleasing to the Lord, that honored him," Hazel Brown says. "It hasn't been a bed of roses along the way. There have been some valleys and some mountain tops, but there's not a whole lot of people that can live together and get along."
The secret to a happy marriage is learning to give and take, she says. You have to be willing to forgive, even when it's hard. Especially when it's hard.
"This is a lifetime thing, not a fly-by night," she says. "Too many people think, "Well, if it doesn't work out, we'll get out of it.' But when you make a commitment to a person, you're making a commitment to the Lord to stay with it."
His answer is simpler, delivered without hesitation: He loves her. At the end of the day, what else is there but love?
"I still wouldn't give her up for anything," he says, eyes fixed on hers.
And you get the impression that somehow, without the trappings of Hallmark, Russell Stover and overpriced roses from a roadside stand, Willie and Hazel Brown's 67th Valentine's Day is going to turn out fine. Maybe even better.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.