She was barely 21 as she stood at the altar at Rockdale Baptist Church, watching me walk toward her in my Confederate gray tuxedo. Yes, I know — but I don’t regret the choice of colors.
I never realized how young 21 was. She was still in college, the same age of our youngest daughter, Jenna, who is still in college. I cannot imagine standing at an altar waiting to place Jenna’s hand into another man’s — not for a few years. I cannot imagine what her daddy must have been feeling and thinking. I know what her mother was thinking. Nobody ever has to wonder what Bitzi Potts is thinking.
I hope they both feel like it has worked out.
Her hands were sweating when her daddy placed them in mine. I don’t know if that was from nervousness or because she had a terrible cold and high fever. Even the singer — my dear friend Terri Hubbard Cooper was sick that night and wasn’t sure she could answer the curtain call. She sang like a nightingale, by the way.
Two of the five young men who stood with me at the altar that night are dead and gone, long before their time. Life is a mystery, to be sure.
I don’t remember much of the ceremony itself except that it was delivered in a delightful Tennessee twang by a minister that I greatly admire and respect to this very day.
After the beautiful candlelight ceremony we all adjourned to the church fellowship hall where punch and nuts and cheese straws and mints and wedding cake were served. I hosted a wedding this summer. My how times have changed.
An hour after we arrived in the fellowship hall — maybe 75 minutes, but no more — we were on our way out the door, climbing into our brand new Chevrolet Monte Carlo, headed to New Orleans, because Scarlett and Rhett had. That was reason enough. We were still combing bird seed out of our hair when we stopped for our first meal as man and wife.
It was at a Wendy’s in Auburn, Ala. Auburn had just won the Bluebonnet Bowl and the town was out in force, rolling the trees that used to adorn Toomer’s Corner. The guy at Wendy’s gave us our meal for free. We spent our first night at the Holidome, in Montgomery.
That all happened 31 years ago this very day. Sometimes it seems like we were born married, but at other times it seems like it was night before last. We have gone through so much together since we said “I do.”
We have laughed and cried together. We have celebrated and rejoiced and grieved together. We have worked our fingers to the bones together, at least figuratively, and we have played together. Man how we have played.
We have traveled this country and a great portion of the world together and have seen more sights and had enough remarkable experiences for four lifetimes — and we did all of this together.
The best thing we have done is raise three of the most amazing children anyone could imagine. Each is an individual that has been uniquely influenced by the God who created them and the parents who raised them — together. In fact, the unique circumstances that brought us together are so remarkably unlikely that I have often pondered them in my heart and have come to the conclusion that God put us together specifically so those three amazing human beings would become precisely the man and women they have become.
We have also argued and fought and disappointed one another on many, many occasions, and we have faced the prospect of death together. But throughout the last 31 years we have always, always lived up to our traveling theme song.
We really ain’t got a barrel of money and times we really are ragged and funny. Many of our friends have had their quarrels and parted, but we are still pretty much as we started. And through all kinds of weather, here we are — just traveling along, singing our song, side by side — together.
To my lovely wife, Lisa — it has been a great ride and I hope the next 31 years are as amazing as the past 31.