These two were my second couple to interview for lamar county love stories...
& let me tell you, their story is gut wrenching. There is nothing in this world that can compare to the pain they have suffered, but they refuse to let their hardships keep them down. I had no idea when they walked in that before they left they would leave a little piece of their hearts behind with me. Here's how their story goes..
how did you two meet?
"Well our first meeting was at a church youth retreat, I was in 8th grade & he was a junior, but it was just like a brief talking, you know how the guys come by to, you know, whatever. But we actually met in high school my freshman year, & he was a senior. Our school back then took the FFA & the FHA girls to the State Fair. And so, we had been 'talking' to one another in the mornings & at lunch. So there were four of us freshman girls that had, per say, 'hooked up' with four of the senior guys. Of course the girls were on one bus & the guys were on another bus but we got to the State Fair & all hung out together. So that was our first date." Explained Pam. "I fell in love that day, literally, I did & I think he did too." She said while blushing & looking at her husband. "But my mom & my dad weren't gonna let us date cause He was a senior & I was a freshman & all that. So he came over to the house so my parents could meet him & talk with him, they found out who his parents were & we were good to go."
Who said I love you first?
I shot my question towards Thomas in hopes he would open up a little since Pam had mastered the first question, he paused for a second & said, "hmm, I don't know. It's hard to say."
Short & sweet. We carried on.
And how long have you been married?
Pam took the lead on this question again & responded "46 years." I could feel my eyes grow wider as she spoke & told her, "WOW, 46 years, that's a really long time."
What's your favorite thing about her?
"Hmm, everything I guess. I mean, it's hard to put my finger down on just one thing." Thomas said. I knew at this point he was going to be a tough egg to crack. Don't get me wrong, He was responding to my questions but I could tell he just 'wasn't that into it.' So I moved on to the next question to try & lighten the mood a little bit.
What's your least favorite thing about him?
I asked Pam while smiling my innocent smile. She thought for a second & said, "HIS PROCRASTINATION." and we all began to laugh together. He gave her a look that said 'you know you love me' & I'm not positive but I think he may have winked at her too.
When did you realize you wanted to spend forever with her?
"It probably wasn't long after our first date at the State Fair, yeah it would've fell right there in that time frame. Pretty early on. We haven't been apart too much since then" Thomas told me. About the same time Pam chimed in & said "I just felt like he was the one." Smiling.
Have the two of you ever had pictures made together, just the two of you?
Pam went on to explain that they used to have their pictures made for the church registry & how they didn't do that anymore, but how every year at the Sweetheart Soiree she made sure they got a picture of them together. Lately she had been trying to 'selfie' more even though they weren't really 'selfie' people just so they could have more pictures together. But after she explained all of that she paused then said, "Well ok, little backstory, I don't really know if this goes with what you're asking but we have two children & we have 6 grandchildren. 3 belong to my son & then 3 belonged to my daughter. Well we raised the 3 that belonged to my daughter & so we've put us on the back burner raising children." She told me. "Just in the last few years we have been able to think that the kids wouldn't burn the house down while we go & do." as we all busted out laughing.
Tell me about your wedding day.
"It was a long time ago." Thomas said while chuckling. "It was in December." Pam told me. "It was my junior year, my parents went ahead & let us get married, they knew too, ya know? So it was during my junior year during Christmas break. My daddy made me promise that if we got married that I had to finish school. Even if he had to come pick me up every day & take me to school. So I finished, and I graduated. I went to school every day while he went to work."
Who controls the thermostat at home?
"He tries." Pam laughed & looked over at him. "It's crazy how I'll go in there & the gas logs are burning & the air conditioner is blowing." Thomas said while basically rolling his eyes & smiling. I thought to myself, here we go, he's starting to open up.
Tell me about a time the two of you may have struggled in your relationship & what you did to overcome it?
The room fell silent.
I watched as the smiles began to fade from their faces & their eyes began to fill with tears. I could see them struggling to find the words & I wasn't sure who was about to speak or what was going to be said but I felt my stomach tighten & almost a hint of regret.
"Um.. our oldest granddaughter, that lived with us from birth..it'll be 6 years this April that she got killed in a car accident."
My heart hit the floor as I started putting two & two together.
"And uh, it's the deepest struggle that we have ever faced." Pam said while trying her hardest to keep it together. She went on to explain about normal married life struggles, like finances & having to move, & things that were expected & 'apart of life'. Normal struggles of marriage she called it.
"But the biggest struggle to overcome was the death of our granddaughter." She said wiping her tears.
I reluctantly asked if she felt like it made the two of them stronger & immediately felt silly for asking.
"Of yes, definitely." She said. "If it wasn't for our faith I wouldn't be sitting here telling you about it right now. Ya know, I lost my mom & my dad. My mom was like 20 years ago almost & my dad was like 25 or 26 years ago. Which my dad was a shock, one of those heart attack calls you get at midnight. & My mom had breast cancer & it was hard watching her struggle. So it was like, at the end I didn't want her to struggle anymore."
She paused for a second & said quietly "But when the sheriff came to the house in the middle of the night to tell me my granddaughter's dead. That... That was hard. That was real hard."
It was in that moment I realized who they were. The next 10 seconds between questions felt like a lifetime because I was torn. I wanted to yell out, "I KNOW HER. I KNEW YOUR GRANDDAUGHTER. AND I KNEW COLBIE TOO." and I remember the day I found out about the accident like it was yesterday. But I didn't. I kept my mouth shut & continued with the interview.
As I sit here typing this, the tears are falling all over again. So many things are going through my head now, just like they were then. Will they be mad that I didn't tell them I knew Bailee? I didn't want to take away from the fact that this interview was about them and their story. I didn't want them to change their answers based on me knowing exactly who they were talking about. Selfish maybe. But that was the decision I made in that moment.
What do you see when you look at her?
"What do I see when I look at her?" Said Thomas. I nodded & he went on.. "Well, I mean, the best decision I ever made.. a long time ago. She was who I was gonna be with. There was never any doubt about that."
Using one word to describe your relationship, what would it be?
There was a long pause & Thomas told me he couldn't think of just one word. I told him we would skip that question & move on.
What does love mean to you?
I turned and asked Pam.. "I thought it used to mean a feeling, but um, ya know we all have feelings of I love that candy, I love that picture. I love that, ya know. But love is an action word, it's what you do for others. It's what your spouse does for you. I used to work for Dr. Weikoff, and he explained to me that real love isn't a feeling, it's what you do. You determine in your marriage to keep doing. I get feelings of anger & frustration, & I get feelings of I just want to push him away. But the action word he does for me.. is he takes care of me. He wants to take care of me, & he does. I mean, I could ask him to go to the moon & he would. He cooks, he helps me do laundry. He has a 12 hour shift and rotates nights and days but days off like today he helped me to come do these pictures & while we may not have a huge dinner tonight, he will still fix us something. It might be a peanut butter & jelly sandwich or a grilled cheese. But we show each other by doing things for each other."
All I could say was awh. Thomas stopped me & said "Go back to my word!!" I laughed & said okay, what's your word?!
"Adoration" he exclaimed & smiled while looking at his wife.
What advice would you like to leave for the younger generation?
Thomas stopped & thought for a long time before he spoke. "Well...a relationship is work, it's an every day job, it's hard, & it's difficult. You have to work hard at it to make it work. So be willing to put the effort into it if you want the relationship. Take care of her."
There are no words to explain..
How much those 45 minutes with Thomas & Pam meant to me. Never in a million years did I dream of our time together going the way that it did & I truly believe that our paths crossed for a reason. We may never know what that reason was or why but I find comfort in the fact that some questions just don't have answers.
One thing I do know is that Bailee was one lucky gal to have two people who loved her from the depths of their souls. Her & Colbie both, were loved by many & are missed by all.
There's more Love stories to come
Stay tuned for more from Lamar County couples who have shared their stories with me.