It was standard. At the start of each first date, Fred would look his date in the eye and tell her, “Don’t fall in love with me. I am only going to date you for two weeks.”
One of those girls turned right around and told her girlfriend, as girlfriends are wont to do. She was not amused.
After the girl’s last date (the two weeks were up, you see), she took Fred to King’s department store, where her friend Shirley worked. Introductions were made. They talked, they helped straighten ribbons. And when the work was done, Fred took the girl home.
But he came back for Shirley.
Standing in front of King’s, he asked to take her home. She kindly refused. Her sister was picking her up. “Then I’ll follow you home, so we can talk.” Well, her sister pulled up to the curb, she jumped in the car, and away they sped, leaving Fred in their dust.
But he was not one to be deterred, that Fred Leonard.
Just so happens, his sisters knew Shirley. He gave them a call and they caved like a poorly set cake, leading him right to Shirley’s front door. When he showed up, she had no recourse but to invite him in. It was the proper thing to do.
They chatted for a bit. He asked her out on a date. She said yes–but not for reasons you might think. He was handsome, sure; but she wouldn’t forget those words spoken to her friend. Ever since she had heard the story, she had plotted what she might say if told something similar. She simply wanted her chance . . .
Their first date fell on her birthday, December 1st, 1958. He picked her up in his black, steel top Ford convertible; with the top down, the heat up, they took a cold winter’s drive to Lucky Peak, where they watched the water flow like a waterfall.
Shirley kept waiting to give him a piece of her mind, but he never once mentioned two weeks; he never once suggested she not fall in love with him. Before long those two weeks had come and gone.
Two months later, February 6, 1959, they married.
Today they celebrate 55 years of marriage.
Fifty-five years of family and friends, memories and celebration. Fifty-five years of laughter and tears, the spectacular and the seemingly mundane.
Fifty-five years of showing us exactly what love is: That it is patient and kind . . . that it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.*
So to Shirley, thanks for saying ‘yes.’
To Fred, thanks for knowing a great thing when you see it.
To you both, thanks for reminding us that sometimes love arrives on your doorstep when you least expect it. And when it does, it just might be amongst the greatest love stories of them all . . .
*1 Corinthians 13:4a, 6-8a