Fifty years seems like a long time when it is seen from the front end. Looking back, it seems as if it were yesterday. In 1965, as the rock song says, “The times, they were a’changin.” Those changes put down the foundation for radical change that seemed to come rushing in on us all.
Although it didn’t happen on Route One, in the big wide world in 1965 women were joining a “Feminist Revolution.” No longer were they going to stay home and do the homemaker thing. To prove it they burned their bras and “June Cleaver” and “Betty Crocker” became dirty words. Not on Route One! All we knew about these “wild women,” was what we read in The Birmingham Post Herald or saw on the 15 minutes of news that came by way of our black and white TV each afternoon.
And, 50 years ago, at some of the larger institutions of learning, college students were becoming just as rebellious as those wild women. All was calm and all was bright at Florence State Teachers College, Itawamba Junior College, and Northwest Alabama Junior College. Those from Route One who went to college at those close- to- home campuses had nothing to worry about and nothing to protest, as far as we knew. Many times during the past 50 years I have recalled what my sweet mama said one night as a longer-than-usual segment on the evening news showed fires being kindled on far-away college campuses and students were kicking at doors. She said, “Someday, this is the pool of people that we will get our teachers, politicians, preachers, and businesspeople from – we will reap this wild wind!”
Fifty years ago, I had submitted my application to Florence State and been accepted. I had my life planned out. After getting my teaching degree I planned to be an old maid schoolteacher, move to Alaska, and retire from teaching there. My school guidance counselor had helped me lay my plan. A scholarship was available for those willing to pack up their heavy coats and move to that remote, icy state. It was a long way from Route One, but it seemed I heard adventure calling. And then I met a young man with a crew cut and the biggest, brightest smile I’ve ever seen. It was a chance meeting at a graduation party given at the home of his cousin. “LaVale meet my cousin Ruble,” his cousin said. We exchanged the usual “nice to meet yous,” and I left to study for an algebra exam. He had his cousin call and ask if I would go out with him . . . and then he called . . . and then he came . . . and as they say, the rest is history. I did not go to Florence State. I did not go to Alaska and teach school. Three months after Ruble Mills and I met we turned the heads of friends and family alike and were married. It was a beautiful ceremony.
I could have married him the day after we met because I knew God had put him in my path. I became more convinced of that than ever when he shared with me that he felt the same way. We had 47 years, six months, and 17 days together on his earth. In the beginning, as all married couples do, we had good times and bad. But we faced them together no matter how the times rolled. He went to war. While he was gone, I had a baby. After he came home from war, as young parents we dealt with budgets that were so tight we struggled with making ends meet at times.
A second daughter was born. Life was good. As years passed, death took our grandparents and then our parents after long, productive lives. And death almost took our firstborn daughter when she was only 19. It was the hardest thing we faced. We clung to our faith, each other and, to our lovely daughters. We were blessed beyond measure. We had so many more good times than bad.
In 1990 we celebrated 25 years of marriage at a lovely “silver reception” given by our daughters and members of our wedding party. There were 126 people who came to celebrate with us. At first, we were reluctant to have the 25th celebration but our daughters insisted. Ruble said, “Let’s do it. Who knows, I might not make it to the 50th.” And, because we were still rather young then and death seemed far away, we laughed. But he didn’t make it. I celebrated the years we had together alone on what is known as the “Golden Wedding Anniversary.” I was not sad. There were too many good times to remember. The crowning touch of our years together was the birth of our two grandchildren.
In all the years we had together, I was totally satisfied being his wife and no man has ever been more supportive of a wife than he was to me. We did nothing separately. If it couldn’t be done together, we didn’t do it. If that sounds like a fairy tale, it’s not. It is life as we lived it. We had some retirement time together and loved every minute. He could make the best coffee I’ve ever tasted. It has taken me two and a half years to get use to making my morning and afternoon coffee.God has the big plan, and I don’t question why Ruble didn’t make it to this milestone. I praise God that at a chance meeting I met the love of my life and that I had him for as long as I did. And the years have turned to gold.