We’ve Only Just Begun

By Marsha Tennant

We’ve Only Just Begun

White lace and promises…NOT!

Try white knit mini dress met Coast Guard uniform. We eloped to Elizabeth City, North Carolina, from Virginia, late one Friday afternoon in April. The promises were exchanged in the Justice of the Peace office over a barbershop. The year was 1969.

A kiss for luck and we’re on our way…

A blind date arranged by a mutual friend set the wheels in motion. I was a junior at N.C. Wesleyan College and Randy (“Coastie”) was training for Viet Nam. We saw each other every weekend he wasn’t at sea or training for war. It’s true what they say about young love. It was very passionate, exciting and exhilarating. Forty-two years later my heart flutters at the thought of that white dress uniform! I was fascinated by his daredevil personality and flashy smile. He was perplexed that I was the first girl NOT to be in awe of his good looks and the fact that he had gone to Douglas Southall Freeman High School. In Richmond, that was the ticket for the guys to date at will.

Before the rising sun…we fly…so many roads to choose…

We must have been drawn to each other at a deeper level, but were too young to know it at the time. Fate? Stars aligning? Sheer luck? Our wedding reception was at a Shoney’s restaurant on our way back to Richmond. It was just the two of us. Coastie told me to order anything I wanted from the menu. He had two hundred dollars in his pocket. We were rich, scared and in love. What in the Sam Hill were we thinking?

Sharing horizons that are new to us…

Fast forward to Portsmouth Naval Hospital where our son was born and died. It was raining the morning we greeted Timothy Blane and said goodbye a few hours later. I can still hear the rain against the silence of the delivery room. I was terrified that Coastie would be angry with me for the loss of our child. My grief and immaturity overwhelmed me at that moment. Watching my young husband hold our tiny voyager put my mind at ease and made me love him even more. It was a defining moment in our marriage. We were built for battle after that.

Talking it over, just the two of us…working together day to day…

The 70s were our building years. We were part of the GI Bill, graduate school, first house, first car payment. We even taught in the same school district for five years – beginnings.

God had a sense of humor when he sent us our daughter, Alice. Mr. Lover Boy, who had a string of girls who adored him in his teenage years, would have at least eighteen years of payback.

The 80s and 90s were spent in various states as Coastie built a career in sales. We made the decision for him to leave education because we thought it was best for our family’s future. We had so many wonderful experiences and opportunities because we did it. Leaving family in Richmond was difficult. Nothing comes without a price.


In 2000 Coastie said that he thought we should move south ahead of schedule. I was NOT happy. I loved the Carolinas as our vacation destination, but I was not ready to leave our daughter, family, friends and a very successful career. In the end, we moved. Finding the right place and reinventing ourselves was exciting and difficult at the same time. These were the most turbulent years we had faced together. Our rhythm as a couple was challenged. We built a house and found peace on a pond. A marriage that doesn’t face storms cannot grow. We grew.

And when the evening comes…we smile…so much of life ahead…we’ll find a place where there’s room to grow…

By-pass surgery was a wakeup call. I sat and looked at Coastie with tubes and machines connected to all parts of his body. The white hospital gown blurred into a starched white uniform, and I saw that smile that had won me over years ago. “Don’t you leave me with that damn new puppy, Coastie,” I whispered.

He didn’t. He survived, and we have so much of life ahead. We are both spending mornings together again at an alternative school. We serve. We are happy. We are blessed.

And yes, we’ve just begun…

This is my love letter to my husband, Randy. April 4th will be our 41st anniversary. Dinner at Shoney’s?

About this writer

  • Marsha Tennant Marsha Tennant is the author of the children’s book, Margaret, Pirate Queen. She was recently published in AARP Bulletin and Mary Jane’s Farm. She and her husband retired and moved to the beach from Calabash in an attempt to downsize and spend time with their new grandson. A second Pirate Queen book is circling while porch sitting these days!

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