I called my parents this morning to wish them congratulations on their anniversary. “Do you think the marriage will last?” my dad said. Mom just laughed. Apparently, having a sense of humor is one of the reasons it has lasted, SIXTY-THREE years, to be exact.
Needless to say, a lot has happened since their 1951 wedding at St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church in New Orleans–and it’s nothing less than remarkable that these two people have seen it all together. Their lives intersected in New Orleans after WWII when Jeanne was sixteen years old and Bob was an undergraduate at Tulane. Her family moved there in 1943 from Dyersburg, Tennessee, where she’d grown up. Dad had left his life-long home in Dunedin, Florida to attend college and later, medical school. So they’d known each other a while when they finally tied the knot. Their life together began in San Diego, where Bob was a Lieutenant in the Navy during the Korean War, followed by a three-year internship back in New Orleans.
When Dad was offered an opportunity as an internist in a small town nestled amidst the mountains of east Tennessee, Mom’s family was convinced he was taking her into some remote outback beyond the boundaries of civilization. Kingsport was actually a growing community that had a lot to offer a young family. In the early days of his practice, however, Dad did play the role of a country doctor, paying house calls all hours of the night to patients throughout a wide region in Southern Appalachia. He’d often return with a story– like being held at gunpoint, fetching an elderly woman out of a tree, and narrowly escaping a snake bite–to name a few. The three offspring arrived in due course, yours truly being the middle one and the only girl. My mother was the quintessential stay-at-home mom. She held hearth and home together, feeding, clothing and corralling us while at the same time allowing us the freedom to experience the most wonderful of childhoods. We never felt neglected or lacked for anything, but there was never any hovering. The world was ours to explore, even if it sometimes got rough, and homework supervision wasn’t even a concept. We grew up in the sixties, came of age during the seventies, and everybody turned out a-okay!
As if being great parents wasn’t enough, these two really brought the house down with Act II, in which they truly embraced and excelled in the role of grandparents. Eight grandchildren will keep you hopping– between baptisms, babysitting, feeding, entertaining, putting on “Camp Kingsport” year after year, helping with school projects, coming to recitals, plays, concerts, sporting events, then graduations and weddings. And now there are even two great-grandchildren! All of this has transpired as the world galloped through the end of one century headlong into another, with wars, elections, assassinations, recessions, shortages, trends, and crisies on every front, be it international, national or domestic. A person born in the year of their marriage could now be receiving Social Security. They’ve seen it all–and the technology! When they were married, television was just barely catching on. Now they both have iPhones. We text each other, we have FaceTime conversations, they shop the internet and read this blog. My parents are- in a word- awesome. They were always there, always have been there, and still ARE there! God Bless Jeanne and Bob Jernigan, a life well lived– and still at it. Sixty-three years and counting!