Valentine’s past: Mama and daddy’s love story

Published 9:21 pm Friday, February 9, 2018

Well, gentlemen, here’s your annual little Valentine’s Day reminder.

Just in time. I have been blessed to share my mama and daddy’s love story for a couple of weeks recently — and it seems fitting that we tell a bit more a few days before the “big day.”

I was thinking how little we know about our parents’ story. My own kids and grandkids probably don’t know the story of how the amazin’ blonde chased me down and begged and pleaded for me to marry her way back in 1975. I guess I’d better get around to telling them the whole story before they hear some version that is skimpy on the facts.

I guess I never asked mama or daddy to tell their story, either. I have had to rely on some Georgian historians — such as any number of uncles or my second cousin Emily, who gets a good bit of the credit (or blame) for raising me.

All I remember hearing from the primary sources is that mama and daddy never kissed before they married. When they finally did kiss, mama was only 16 and daddy 17. Daddy’s brothers, Bobby and Bud would tell me later how amazed they were that this union ever took place, considering the mischievous streak daddy had running through him.

It was at the funeral of my Uncle Jim in Little Rock in 2004 that they illustrated how deep that streak ran. They said that when they were growing up a fancy boy from the city came calling one day on their sister Mary for a first date one day.

“She would go on that first date,” they said, “but Dut made sure it was the last, too.”

Then they laughed that Bowen laugh I had grown up with.

When the city-slicker pulled up to the Bowens’ farm in his shiny red convertible to pick up Mary, the Bowen boys shook their heads in disbelief. As the couple pulled away, they could hear ma hollering out,

“Have that girl home by 11, mind you, not a minute later!”

That mandate gave daddy the idea of slipping through the house when nobody was looking and moving every clock up two hours. At 11 o’clock, right on time, when the city boy drove up in his shiny convertible, the clocks read 1 a.m.

He pulled up to find Ma standing on the porch with a broom in her hands. The city boy didn’t hang around long enough for the details — or dare call back later on to get them. Poor fella never knew why in the world this crazy woman was waving a broom, hollering, “Don’t cha dare brang my baby home two hours late.”

Daddy, my uncles said, seemed to have “one-trick-a-day” up his sleeve. That’s what makes it so surprising that he could never find a trick that would keep Mama from straightening him out. What could mama have done had she had more time?

She worked on him for 20 years and would’ve done it until they were both a 100 if the Lord had willed it so. But the Lord gave her to him for a while, and daddy walked straighter than he ever thought he could.

It wasn’t easy, because daddy had some health trouble that made life tough in a number of ways. But I want you to know that mama really loved him. She stuck by him without once complaining. She just served and worked and loved the best she knew how, until just before Christmas of 1967.

I think she continued loving him after that. She never seemed to look another direction, even after he died. She just spent the remaining seven years of her life finishing the job they had started together.

I am sure my daddy knew how blessed he was to spend his short life with a good woman like mama.

I hope he remembered to tell her.