It’s Valentine’s week, and the world seems to be flooded with red and pink and chocolate and roses.  I woke up this morning and my inbox had red hearts in almost every promotional message.  I’ve never really been a big fan of Valentine’s Day, but I am such a fan of true love and my favorite love story (outside of the Bible) is Spike and Darnell’s love story that lasted seven decades and is, now, outlasting their own lives because of the impact it had on me and has had on many others.

Spike & Darnell

For the rest of the story, I’ll be calling them the names they are to me;  they are Spike and Darnell to hundreds of thousands, but they are Pappy and Gran’ma to me. (Mentally insert red heart emoji here.)

It all started with a blind date. . . . Pappy’s roommate was supposed to go on a blind date with this young girl from Dallas. When he got sick, Pappy didn’t want the girl to be stood up, so he took his roommate’s place. At the end of the date, Gran’ma was so fond of her blind date that she “accidentally” left her handbag in his car so that he would have to call her again. They got married in her home a short time later, when Gran’ma was just 19.

Fast forward fifty years and their first granddaughter is watching and learning from their every move and building all of her dreams of true love on their love story.  When I think of true love, I think of these memories:

Gran’ma and I would be playing or talking (as I grew up) in the living room in the afternoons.  Their home was my happy place and these afternoons were cherished.  As soon as we would hear Pappy’s red truck crunching the gravel on the driveway, we would both hop up and run to the kitchen to pour a glass of her amazingly wonderful homemade iced tea and we would greet him as he got out of the truck and home from work.  He would be sitting on the stool in the carport taking off his work boots and he would sit with us drinking his tea and we would listen to his stories of the day.  (I love that she always put down what she was doing to greet him out of nothing other than love, it wasn’t obligation and it didn’t even feel like habit; it felt like love every time.)  He would immediately go inside to take a shower and wash off the day so that he could be clean and fresh for the evening.  It felt like he was being so lovingly respectful of Gran’ma and of the home.  After he cleaned up, Gran’ma would make dinner and I would sit with Pappy in the hallway and the three of us would just talk because she could see into the hall from the kitchen.  The love was so real and so apparent.  Their mutual love and their mutual respect for one another that lead to selfless service and true friendship.  They liked one another.  This is my number one picture of what true love looks like and I will never let this image (that was reoccurring) go.

At night, before bed, Gran’ma would go into the bathroom and get ready for bed while Pappy drank a peach milkshake.  I don’t know if this happened every night, but it happened on the nights I was there.  Then I’d meet Gran’ma in bed and we would talk and day dream.  As soon as Pappy got his PJs on, he would go to his side of the bed and get onto his knees and pray for what seemed like hours.  This was just his time with the Lord, he was not praying out loud, but I got to see the heart of a man of God in those moments with my Pappy on his knees.  Then he’d crawl into bed and almost immediately fall asleep and Gran’ma and I would giggle when his snoring started.  This story seemingly has nothing to do with the love story, but to me it does.  It is the vision of a man ending his day with the Lord so that he could pour out love to his bride out of the overflow of the love in his heart from Christ.  And it spoke to me of the comfortable love they had as Gran’ma and I talked and giggled while the three of us were all together.  This is another snapshot (reoccurring) from my childhood that showed me what love looks like.

In the morning, Pappy would get up before the sun and be gone to build another Kamp before Gran’ma or I woke up.  And every morning there would be a hand written love note on the kitchen counter to my Gran’ma.  It was short and sweet and every time he wrote the word “love” or wrote a pronoun about my Gran’ma, he would put a heart around that word.  It was early in the morning and he was heading out for a long day of manual labor and he took a moment and stopped and thought about her and then let her know that he was thinking of her.  I still get warm fuzzies thinking about this small and selfless act.

Their love has inspired me my entire life to love so selflessly and with so much excitement and creativity and to take the time to express my love and to allow someone to know me so well that I can relax in the comfort of the “regular.”  Was their love story perfect?  Doubtful.  Did they have ups and downs?  Likely.  I’m sure that some days love was a decision that each one made because the feeling wasn’t always there.  I’m sure there were harsh words and tears during seasons.  I’m confident that they had all of the loneliness and longing that comes with two imperfect people being committed to one another. 

I’m not naïve enough to believe otherwise, but that is what makes the story of their love so much sweeter.  They chose to love when the “feels” weren’t there and they loved to love when all was right in the world.  And they passed down the meaning of true love to me and to so many with their example.  They made me a better wife and mother and friend because of the ways they showed me that love is a verb—a decision and a feeling and many many selfless and thoughtful actions.  Love is I’m Third.

I hope this weekend finds you thankful for the love story you are living; the love story of a God who loved you so much that he sent His Son to live and die for you so that He could spend eternity with the child (you) He loves.  And we are all living other love stories every day as well with friends or parents or children; we are all living in a world where we get to choose love every day and we get to choose to selflessly make love and action verb.  And if you get to be in a relationship with a spouse or significant other, may you be inspired by Spike and Darnell to love selflessly in the “mundane” of life so that there are moments of special because you love.

And you never know what little eyes you may inspire to love greatly decades later. . . . your love could grow exponentially even after you’re gone because of the legacy of love you leave.  I love bigger because I watched their love story in color.

– Jamie Jo