I recall spending the first twenty five years of my life in deep conversation with a wise man named Garlen Abernathy Sr. He was my grandfather, and his life was rooted in daily conversations with God. Garlen and his wife Elizabeth (my grandmother) possessed a classic love. They kept the vows of “til death do us part” for 57 years until Elizabeth took her last breath on a cold January night in 1998. It's not the years that made their love classic but the fact that the duration of their marriage was filled with acts of love.
I never saw my grandmother in a healthy state. I remember her wearing an oxygen tank 90% of the time and staying in the house due to her collapsed lung. My father told me that doctors said she wouldn't live past his 7th birthday and that my grandfather spent most of his adult life taking care of his sick wife and never complained about it. HE NEVER COMPLAINED! I never heard him complain a day in my life about anything now that I think about it. I wonder how he felt about her being sick? Was he upset about the hand his wife was dealt? How did she feel about being sick for most of her life? Was she upset? Did she feel some sort of way about not being able to help as much as she possibly wanted to?
At the time of my grandmothers passing I didn’t have the mental capacity to ask these questions as I was 14 years of age, but in retrospect I know that both of their actions showed the love they possessed for each other. They seemed like honeymooners in their elder years. The love was so strong! They never argued and assisted each other with whatever their counterpart needed. They focused on what they could do for each other. My grandmother was a strong woman who fought for her life, raised four children, and did everything she possibly could for her husband. My grandfather was a strong man who catered to his wife's needs, raised four children, help run a church, on top of being a head mechanic at a thriving car shop in the city. I only saw him cry one time and that was at my grandmothers funeral. I remember him telling me he did good by his wife and he loved her and had no regrets. Powerful words from an elderly man that fulfilled his vows and knew it! I hope I can be the man my grandfather was when I get married. Willingly faithful, dedicated, responsible, and accountable for his wife in ALL circumstances. I hope to have a wife that no matter the circumstances, she's willing to fight for the love that we vowed to each other before God.
On top of health issues, I'm sure uprooting a family of four children from Linden, Alabama to Cleveland, Ohio, because of lack of opportunity and safety due to Jim Crow laws and injustice for black people was more than difficult. Being the man and woman that they were defined their love. Their individual decisions to grow and be mature laid the foundation for them becoming one and working together no matter what life brought to their door step. They chose love amongst many other choices. They chose each other even when things looked bad. They fought for each other and that’s what makes it a classic love. Two people enduring with God even when the situation looked unbearable instead of taking it out on each other. Although it wasn’t easy, they were accountable for each other and I admire that.
With divorce rates going up I question are we still fighting for each other? Are we still doing what it takes to create a classic love?