My host “grandparents” here at Edwardsville, Papa Rudy Wilson and his wife Laverne today marked their fortieth Wedding Anniversary. Yes, forty.

According to legends, he met her in 1969 at a get together where she (while being involved with another man) had attended with a male friend. He approached her and asked her to dance. She looked at him and gave him a look that must have meant nothing but “Hell no! Who do you think you are?” He refused to give up. Rather, he started tapping his shoes right there in front of her with the best of his dance moves. And, after perhaps shaking her head wondering what gave him so much confidence, she got enamoured and agreed to a dance. Three months later, she had left the person to whom she was previously engaged, and got married to Rudy. They’ve been together ever since, and blessed with grown up children.

To celebrate, Papa Rudy, now over seventy-one years old, bought his wife a card with some very nice words, a very nice present that she won’t disclose. In turn, she brought him a card, and a silver bracelet that she was wearing for him in the photo. I asked her what drew her to him, and she says it was his sensitivity, although its first manifestation was never what she quite expected. They had gone out on a first date to watch a movie, and halfway throughout the movie, Papa Rudy had tears gushing from his eyes. He looked towards her and asked her for a tissue, and she didn’t quite know how to react. In her mind were the thoughts:

1. What kind of man is this that cries in a movie?

2. What kind of man is this that cries in a movie on a first date with a woman?

3. What kind of man is this that cries in a movie on a first date with a woman and then asks her for a tissue?

The event must have been memorable for her to recall over and over again with a twinkle in her eyes, and fondness in his. She’s from Mississippi while he’s from South Carolina (but not related, even though he won’t rule it out, to the Senator Joe Wilson of the “You Lie!” fame). They’ve been through many things together, yet they’re still going strong.

The only thing that annoys Papa Rudy these days is not related to his marriage, but his name. It’s the fact that once every hour on radio or on television since winter began, the song “Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer” comes on to play. According to him, it reminds him of growing up with class bullies who put a red nose on him in school, and put him in the centre of a circus-like Christmas attention. Apparently, not all songs are politically correct. In any case, I have now been banned from singing that song (which happened to be one of my favourite Christmas songs) whenever I’m within his sight. Sigh.

Happy Anniversary Rudy and Laverne. Thank you for all your love.

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