A man and woman meet. She likes him, and he likes her. They hold hands. He sneaks a kiss.
And in time, if everything goes right, he pops the question. She says "Yes," and before you know it, wedding bells are ringing.
It happens every day. It happened to Ed and Mary.
But their love story was a long time in coming. He was 82 and she 74. And this was the first, and the last, marriage for both.
THE HOBO AND ROUGHNECK
Ed Bird, my great-great uncle, had been looking for the right woman his whole life. And what a life it had been. An experienced hobo, with wanderlust coursing through his veins, he'd hop a train and vanish for months at a time.
Though he always had a few dollars in his pocket, Ed would knock on the back door of restaurants at sunrise to beg a meal from the cook. A farming accident had crippled his right hand when he was a young man, but that was no deterrent to him finding odd jobs. He roughnecked and worked on farms all over the state of Texas.
He also knew where the finest fishing holes were (including those behind "No Trespassing" signs). He knew where to lead his dogs for the best raccoon hunting. And he certainly knew how to lead a foot-loose, fancy-free life.
What he didn't know was where "she" was.
This Adam's missing Eve.
The love he'd been waiting for.
Until one day.
CUPID IN THE NURSING HOME
Ed and Mary were residents of Woodland Springs Nursing Home, in Waco, Texas. A retirement home may not be the typical place where Cupid's arrow flies, but love acknowledges no boundaries of place or age.
The front lobby of the nursing home was the garden of their courtship. Bird poured on the charm. His and Mary's every waking hour was spent side-by-side, talking about the separate lives they’d led. Every conversation drew those separate lives closer together.
Mary said that she’d never found someone who suited her like he did. The first time she saw Ed, if he’d have asked to kiss her, she would have thrown caution to the wind and let him. And soon enough the aged Romeo was stealing kisses every time they were alone in the lobby.
Before long, the two grew inseparable. Once, when Mary’s blood pressure skyrocketed, requiring a brief hospital stay, Ed was determined not to leave her by herself. He took a cab to the hospital every morning so he could be by her side.
Joy has no expiration date.
In fact, the only time he left her alone was after she happily said, “Yes!” to his proposal of marriage. Ed exited the nursing home, walked two miles to downtown Waco, and purchased a wedding ring for his beloved Mary.
When the big day came, on November 3, 1979, five months after the couple had met, residents and guests crowded in for the ceremony. Mary Alff became Mary Bird.
He had her, the woman of his dreams, finally as his own dear, loving wife.
Ed told a reporter, “There will be no separations and no divorces. I’m going to love her as long as I live, as long as the good Lord lets me live.”
And the good Lord indeed gave this happy groom a few more years of life to enjoy with the woman for whom he had been looking his whole life.
JOY HAS NO EXPIRATION DATE
I was nine years old when Ed and Mary wed. I have always loved their story, even more so now, 38 years later.
I admit there have been times in my life when, surrendering to the darkness, I suspected that the best days of my life were behind me. That God had no plans of joy for me anymore.
But the Lord of hope says otherwise.
The sweet and simple story of Ed and Mary says otherwise, too. God is well-known for delaying his children’s happiness, so that, once it comes, we might enjoy and appreciate it all the more.
Looking at the faded black-and-white picture of Ed and Mary, smiling at one another on their wedding day, reminds me of a beautiful truth: Joy has no expiration date.
(Some details taken from Waco Tribune-Herald, in an article written by David Barron, date unknown)