The Year That Changed It All


Fairy tales often begin with, ‘Once upon a time.’ But that’s fairy tales. Stories from our personal lives are seldom traced back to specific times and places. They’re set in motion days, weeks, even years before when what we often call ‘fate’ – begins to lay the building blocks of our future.

New Years is a time of personal reflection. The following narrative tells the unique story of the year that changed my life forever – 1970.

I must back up a bit – to Sunday,  July 20, 1969 – the day that Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. Little did I suspect that as he made that ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,’ I too had begun my first small step into the greatest and grandest change of my life – ever!

I was divorced at the time, and had invited several other couples over to watch those historic grainy black and white images on TV. When all the TV excitement was over, and it was time to clean up after our little moon landing party – the girlfriend (Mary Ellen Ringer) of one of my friends was helping me in the kitchen. As we washed dishes together, we chatted.

As I recall, she’d just made an off-hand remark about by ‘domestic’ life-style when she remarked, “I know someone you’d enjoy meeting.”

“Who?” I asked.

“My sister.”

“I didn’t know you had a sister.”

“She just moved back here from California.”

“Ok. Sure. I’d like to meet her,” I said.

“There’s one thing: she’s married.” Then she quickly added, “But she’s filed for divorce.”


“There’s one more thing,” she remarked. “She has 2 children.”

“Thank’s OK,” I said, “I like children.”

“And one more thing,” she said, this time more seriously. “She’s pregnant. She just found out, after she got back home.”

I’m not sure what I thought – or even if I thought. I just remember saying – “Look. I’d just like to meet her – not MARRY her!”

The following weekend I did get to me her – Carol Ringer Rainey (at the time.) And the day after that, we met in Level Woods Park and I met the 2 children, Liz and Tricia.

And then her mother found out about this meeting with a man ‘who surely must be crazy,‘ and Carol was forbidden to be ‘out with any man’ until after her divorce was final.

A week after meeting Carol, we were talking marriage!

The roots to our remarkable story actually began the year before. My house had a small 4 x 4 coat closet off the living room. I removed the door, wallpapered the walls, cut an antique school desk in half and mounted the seat to one wall and the desk to the opposite. Then I installed the telephone on the wall of my little private telephone booth. So when Carol and I were limited to ‘phone calls only,‘ I was prepared.

And something else had prepared me for acceptance by Carol’s mom. I’d been enlisted by a committee of the Mississippi Arts Commission working with the Junior League of Jackson, in the design and construction of the Children’s Pavilion of the Mississippi Art’s Festival being held in 1970. The chairman of our committee was Bobbie King. Her husband just happened to be the attorney handling Carol’s divorce. I’d been in his home many times. So when Carol’s mom made a remark about the ‘crazy guy’ who was interested in Carol – he was quick to correct her – saying that I might be different – but definitely not crazy. I got the family OK.

When the divorce was final and Carol and I could be seen together in public, it was wonderful time! I took great glee, much to Carol’s chagrin, introducing her to friends and family alike as, “This is Carol, my pregnant girl-friend.” That joke almost back-fired.

Carol’s OB doctor was old school. ‘The baby will come when the baby’s ready.’ Liz had been 2 weeks over-due. Tricia even longer. Lois – well, Lois was, according to everyone’s calculations, 5 weeks over-due! A few weeks more and I would have been the likely suspect! Lois’ lollygagging caused us to postpone the wedding a few weeks. 

Yes, I count 1970 as the pivotal year of my life. That New Years was different and exciting to say the least! And nothing has been the same since – PRAISE GOD! Molly came along in 1971, and since then the births of 13 grandchildren and 6 great-grands.

Yes, Little did I know that on that fateful Sunday night in 1969, that I’d be taking one small step – that would lead to a giant leap for myself – and mankind!