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There Were Two of Us

One rainy day in May, I remember asking my grandmother all about how she and my grandfather had met. With a beautiful, sunny smile on her face, she recalled the details she remembered most from their marriage, and I couldn't help but smile with her. A long, beautiful marriage with so many stories inside of it deserves to have it's story told. Although I am not near as wise or experienced as she, I will try my best to tell it in her words as nearly as I can.

I was born on August 27, 1946 as Sylvia Jean. Raised in the small town of Bowman, South Carolina, I grew up learning all about how to be a responsible young woman by helping my family on their farm. After graduating high school, I went on to become a student at Columbia College. After I graduated from Columbia College that July, my roommate and I moved to Charleston to pursue teaching careers, I at one school, her at another. We shared our apartment with another girl who needed a roommate, but worked at MUSC in their library. So I moved to Woodmere Apartments in August of 1968. At the time, Woodmere was a singles or couples only apartment- no children. It was sort of known as the “party complex” of the area. Across the parking lot in another building lived your grandfather and his roommate. The two of them were on shift work, both of them in the Navy, on submarines; they worked very strange hours. Your grandfather's roommate was actually, oddly enough, the first to come over and welcome us to the apartment complex. Woodmere, as I mentioned before, was a party complex, and had a party every month in their clubhouse. There were always people who hung out by the pool, particularly on weekends. There was a group of us who just “hung out” together and your grandfather happened to be in that group. I was never interested in him at first. After all, he smoke, he drank, and he was a sailor... sailor's mouth included. The two of us had nothing in common. But after a while, the attraction grew and grew, and your grandfather and I went on a date on October 25 for the first time. I had actually asked him to go to a football game, one that my principal was helping coach, but he couldn't go as he had shift work with the Navy. However, being the gentleman that he was, he offered to take me to dinner instead. We went to Hoof and Horn Steakhouse on Dorchester Road, which happened to be a quite pleasant alternative to a football game. From that point on, we began to date, which eventually grew into a serious relationship in March of 1969. Soon after, there was talk of him moving on to Hawaii with the submarine he was on, and I didn't want to think of him being that far away. I knew deep down that that was much too far for a long distance romance.

One of the many things that attracted me to him was that your grandfather always had a knack for playing jokes on people. We laughed together a lot. He once took a “For Sale” sign out of someone's front yard and planted it in our neighbor's lawn. We played more pranks before we were married than after. I remember, one night, he had propped a door up to the front door of my apartment and used another piece of wood to lock it into place. He had done such a good job that when I tried to leave to go to work, I could not open my door to save my life. Hilarious as it may be, I had to climb out of my apartment window just so that I could go to work. I also remember we had gone to the store one afternoon, and he had set all of the alarm clocks to go off at the same time. Your grandfather was quite the “jokester”. That is one of the many, many reasons I fell for him.

But going back to the story, your grandfather had told me he was being sent to Hawaii, and I knew that a long distance relationship would not work out. So, after talk about getting married, he decided to buy a ring. We had talked about marriage for a while, but not actually about a ring. Your grandfather had called the school I was working at at the time and informed them of his plan of proposing one night at dinner. I came into school the next morning and there was a big “Congratulations, Sylvia!” banner hung to the ceiling. I came into school and everyone was saying congratulations, but you see, I was quite confused. Because despite your grandfather's plans, he was not able to propose that night as he had gotten called into work. So, even in all my confusion, I never caught on. Your grandfather proposed to me later in my apartment, with the ring hidden in a bouquet of yellow roses...which happened to be my favorite flowers. One of the many things that attracted me to your grandfather was how much he cared for his family and how genuine he was- and that genuine quality shined through with me, too. The two of us set our wedding date for January 9th, however, the Navy “helped us” to change it to December 27th. Four years after we met, I had your aunt Amy. We were stationed in Saratoga Springs, New York, and we knew we would be for another four years, so, we decided to have a child as we knew your grandfather would be home and not at sea. The same thing happened with your father three years later. At that time we were stationed in Hampton, Virginia.

It was very difficult sometimes, with your grandfather being in the Navy. However, we made the absolute best of the situation as we could, making many friends with other Navy families along the way. I imagine it would have been much different if he had not been in the military. But with that job, I had to learn to be independent more than I would have with him being home all the time. Him being in the Navy made me a very strong woman, and it gave us many opportunities to make friends in “high and low places” as they say. But for several years, it kept us away from our families, and that is one thing I missed out on. I wish I would have been able to spend more time with my mother and father, and him with his. Generally, he was gone for three months for a time, and then would be home for three months. That was the routine of the nuclear submarine patrols. A lot can happen in three months though, and I feel like he missed a lot of the growing up your dad and Amy did. I will admit, it was difficult being a Navy wife, when he was gone for so many months and we had two little children... but I don't regret it.

Your grandfather and I had a lot of great moments together,, from when we adopted a dog, Marmaduke, when we bought our first lawn mower together, and when we used our very first tax refund as a married couple to buy a color television. I really miss I could have spent more days with your grandfather, as he is one of the most wonderful men I have ever met. Our marriage was wonderful, and we lived a great life together. That's why our story deserves to be told.

I remember the stories that my grandma told me like they happened in my own life. These little stories, the little tiny pieces—they add up to create a beautiful story, a masterpiece of sorts. I was glad to have had her tell me, so I can tell my children, and my children's children, so that these stories can live on as long as the love we have for Grandma and Grandaddy.

In Loving Memory of
Wade “Tom”



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