Sunday morning ...

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THERE IS a beginning to every love story.

On a Sunday past, standing in the back of Blue Mountain Baptist Church, I heard one from Marty Mangham and the courtship of his wife, Dianna.

For beginners, Marty was just out of service of young fire and a return to civilian offerings. He had no interest in just one girl.

“That just didn’t interest me,” says Marty. “There were a lot of pretty girls out there and I didn’t want to be tied to just one.

A friend by the name of Steve Gorman and wife Marie felt Marty needed an anchor and they knew  the right anchor, Dianne Brooks.

They began pushing Marty to call “Dianne.”

Marty kept resisting.

Finally, on a day made for fishing, Marie faced Marty and said, “Have you called Dianne yet? We’re going fishing this afternoon. Why don’t you call Dianne and ask her if she wants to go?”

“I thought, no way she’ll want to go fishing,” says Marty, “so I figured this would be a good time to call and that would end that. So I called. I couldn’t believe it. She said yes, said she’d love to go.”

That is your beginning.

“When we picked her up, she didn’t look like anything I expected,” he remembers. “She was gorgeous.

“Steve had an old pickup truck and it was suggested that Dianne ride in the cab. She said she’d ride in the back with me.

“We sat on the tailgate the whole way and just talked. When we got there, I never wet a hook. Me and Dianne sat on the tailgate the rest of the day and just talked.”

A love affair was beginning.

“I was at her house every night,” Marty recalls. “I know I had an ache in my stomach and couldn’t get her out of my mind. I’m sitting on the couch one night and I felt awful. Daddy asked what was wrong. I told him how I felt, that I couldn’t get Diane out of my mind.

“Daddy knew exactly what was wrong, He looked at me and said, ‘Son, you’re in love.’”

I’m pretty sure for the next few nights, Marty left Dianne’s house with an “I love you.”

“We’d been going together for about two weeks,” said Marty, “when I asked if she’d marry me. She said ‘I’ll think about it.’

“I went home and told my daddy what had happened, told him I’d got a real polite ‘No’”

The polite “No” really wasn’t a “No.” Dianne really was thinking about it.

A couple of days passed and, out of the blue one day, Dianne looked at Marty with:

“Is that marriage offer still good?”

Five weeks from the day they met on a blind date, Dianne Brooks became Dianne Mangham for the next 44 years of her life.

“We had nine couples we were friends with,” says Marty. “They all said it wouldn’t last. Eight of the couples wound up divorced.”

The day of the preacher was March 9, 1973. Dianne left Marty on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. A deadly cancer took her to the finish line. She went away at home with Marty by her side, just 22 days before a 44-year love affair would have been celebrated.

You could say that was the ending of a romance.

I don’t think so.

As we stood talking in back of the church, Marty held out his left hand. On his little finger, next to his wedding band, was another wedding band.

“It’s her wedding band,” said Marty. “I had it resized to fit my finger.”

As the choir filed in and the piano began to play, I walked to the fourth pew from the back  and sat down with my romance.

There was one thought as I sat there and thought of the story Marty had told me:

“To love is to grieve.”

I put my arm across the back of the pew behind the blonde and thought about Marty and Dianne.

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George Smith can be reached at 256-239-5286 or email: gsmith731@gmail.com.