The train blustered noisily over the tracks.
Claude and Ginny Shacklett
Its destination: Nashville.
A white-haired gentleman sat reading his newspaper. The headlines read, “Roosevelt Seeks Another Term.” All of his attention was absorbed in the troubling current events. World War II had united the faith and spirit of this nation to bring down tyranny.
But by 1944, many had grown weary of the casualties of war. Such was the sentiment of this man, having lost his son.
The man’s despondent thoughts were interrupted by a young couple across the compartment. Their laughter and chatter made it impossible for him to concentrate on the gloom and doom.
He laid the paper down. To his surprise, the young uniformed man reminded him of his own son. So, he began a conversation.
“Where are you two headin’?” he asked.
“Murfreesboro, Tenn., sir; we just got married three days ago in Twin Falls, Idaho,” the young man announced emphatically.
“Oh, really,” he thought, as he rationalized their behavior.
A vivacious, blue-eyed beauty cheerfully explained, “We got married in my hometown, Twin Falls, Feb. 20. My father insisted that I meet his family, so he gave us $300. Now here we are in Tennessee.”
“How did you two get together?” he asked.
“Well, ya’ see, there she was across the room,” the young man explained. “I just told my buddies, ‘See that girl over there. I’m going to marry her.’”
“That’s right. I was working a summer job in Evergreen, Colo.,”she asked. “He asked my boss if he could take my picture, and – well, the rest is history.”
“Young lady,” the man said, “I can tell by your accent that you’re no Southern Belle. Do you really know what you’ve gotten yourself into?”
With resounding optimism, the young woman explained, “Well, sir, in spite of our differences – and this war – we just had to be together. You know, we just clicked.”
As the train approached the station, its thunderous whistle ended their conversation abruptly.
“We’re about to get to Nashville, honey,” confided her new husband. “Murfreesboro is only a bus ride away now. Soon, we’ll see my folks.”
Their clandestine rendezvous was coming to an end.
As the newlywed couple slowly exited the train, the elderly man asked, “Oh, by the way, what’s your names?”
“We’re Shack and Ginny,” smiled the groom. “She calls me ‘Shack,’ but my name is Claude Shacklett.”
Soon, Shack and Ginny boarded a Greyhound bound for Murfreesboro.
After their encounter with the elderly gentleman, they anticipated the family introduction with some anxious uncertainty, their newly wedded bliss dampened by a cynical old man.
After their contemplative hour ride, Ginny and Shack arrived in Murfreesboro.
Feeling rather displaced as the door of the bus flung open, Ginny was startled to see the most jubilant young man she had ever laid eyes upon. Suddenly, he grabbed the young bride, hugged her vigorously, and kissed her right on the mouth.
The elderly man’s observations echoed in her mind. Providence and this awful war had brought these two together.
Taken by surprise, Ginny could hardly speak, appearing astonished by his affectionate boldness.
Western girls only let their boyfriends and husbands kiss them, especially on the mouth. Folks “shot straight from the hip” but were far less demonstrative with their affections.
“You must be Ginny,” he exclaimed, pulling back to arm’s length to look her up and down. “I’m brother Bob. It’s great to have you in the family. Welcome to our Murfreesboro.”
In spite of his overtly amicable introduction, Bob seemed harmless enough.
But an unexpected shroud of home sickness cloaked Ginny.
The reality of the elderly gentleman’s comment conjured a lump in her throat as she pondered, “What had she gotten herself into?” At the tender age of 19, now 2,500 miles from her Magic Valley, she found herself peering warily over the precipice of an entirely foreign culture, far away from all that was most dear and familiar to her.
WWII united this country in a common enterprise, but it displaced many families, flinging individuals into marriages that might never have happened otherwise.
Such was the case with my parents, Virginia Ruth Allen and Richard Claude Shacklett, a born and bred Tennessee boy. My parents were married 50 years before my father’s death in December 1994.
Although they had their ups and downs, they continued to demonstrate a principle that truly kept their marriage strong – they were two people who learned the power of forgiveness.
Ginny and Shack taught us that it is not the superficial kind of love that sustains a relationship, but the kind that grows through time and experience, living out each struggle with acceptance of one another. They understood not to judge and criticize each other’s differences but to accept them as treasures.
In this 50 years of marriage, their faith taught them to love one another, not to change one another.
For their legacy of love, my brother, Bill, sister, Linda, and I, including their seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, are all beneficiaries.
I love them for all that they stood for.
It is the kind of love that transcends time and place and beyond generations – God’s love and creative power playing out in our lives daily.
Thank you, Mom and Dad.
We love you still.