Robert Hitt Neill column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Neills celebrate 47 years together

By Robert Hitt Neill

This week is mine and Betsy’s 47th Wedding Anniversary, which you would normally think would make us fairly long in the tooth, yet she has certified pictures of herself as a five-year-old bride in long black curls, with the handsome (even then!) blonde groom proudly standing by. Go figure. I ain’t telling.

Howsomever, she was remarking just last night that our oldest daughter will turn 46 this fall, but then demurely qualified that by revealing unto her audience that this child was the progeny of her husband’s, by his first wife.  Go figure.

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The mainmost thing is, of course, that we have not only been married for 47 years — man & boy, woman & girl – but even before the Wedding, we’ve been in love with one another for going on 49 years, come September 30th this fall.

Those who do not believe in “Love at First Sight” need to contact their Uncle Bob, and I can set you straight.  Try

We sat up here on the balcony at Brownspur drinking coffee and marveling at all the wonderful times we’ve had in this Great Adventure, as Betsy termed it.

The friends who have blessed us by sharing their lives – some for a short time, some for this lifetime – plus the kids who included us in their growing-ups out here – some of which were blood kin to us, some of which were just our kids as well as their own daddies’ and mommas’ kids – and of course the grown-ups who started us on our Great Adventure – again, some being blood-kin, some just kin – ALL those folks have enriched us as their lives touched ours.

Then God gave us this great big old house with the great big old guesthouse (“The Store,” or remodeled plantation commissary store) for folks to come visit, or some even to live with us for short or long stretches.

The Jakes, who inspired the book by that title, and following them the Bravo Charlie & the Virgin Killer Bunch (the book which ain’t been published yet!) – those kids just lived out here with us, seems like.

Plus adults, like “Clip” Morgan, or The Preacher & The Holy Spiritess, or the DSU Pilot’s Association for several years – all those folks just blessed our lives with their own special touches.

The Swimming Hole came under construction the year after we moved this huge old home eleven miles from town – a real, old-fashioned, sand-bottom Hole big enough to hold dozens of kids at parties, which we’ve had so many of out here.  

Betsy and I kept a legal pad by the fireside one February so that after supper we could read off the names upon it each night, then add others who popped into our minds – at the end of a month, we could actually NAME over 1,000 kids who have been in that Swimming Hole, some of which have brought back their own kids, or even grandkids! What blessings all those youngsters have been to our lives!

I have an aunt who is working up on 102 years of age this summer, and I am claiming her genes, so as to shoot for another 47 years.  It’s been that much fun!

Not that there haven’t been hard times – rocks in the box of chocolates, and life is like that. All the broken bones Betsy has had to nurse me back from (at least four of the over 23 occurred before she met me), the house fire, the farm years of drought or torrential fall rains, the tough financial times those brought on.  

But there have also been the dozen books now, those ten years when I was speaking nationally (before the broken back put a quietus on my traveling) when Betsy and even the kids could go too, and the Blessings with a capital B from the ministries we’ve worked in together: youth ministry, preaching, Emmaus Walks, the Rural Crisis Groups formed by the Southern Baptists and the Episcopalians during those terrible farm years, the Creative Writing Anti-Violence Program, the Kairos Prison Ministry and that MS Kairos Music Team, as well as the years of Music Ministry.

How does one couple pack so much into just 47 years of marriage??!!

How does the Lady of the Home stay so beautiful??!!

It’s because God has truly Blessed us with so many friends and memories.

Thank You, Lord! Selah.