July 31, 1977 was the beginning of my lifelong journey with Melanie Janell Roll.
Today – July 31, 2023 is 46 Years – 4.6 Decades – 16,790 Days into that journey.
As we stood in front of a packed church in Clinton, Oklahoma in 1977 – on that day so many years ago holding hands and saying our wedding vows, little did I know then that it was not as much about the words that were being said (although they are very important) but the silent language of holding hands that was so significant.
I want to share key highlights of each decade and will wrap it up with my advice on how to be happily married for 46 years – 4.6 decades – 16,790 days.
Our First Decade (1977-1987) started out with a new job for me and college for Melanie. All I ever wanted to be from a career standpoint was a store manager of the local United in Clinton, Oklahoma. As we held hands and started out in what we thought would be nice quiet little life in Custer County has turned out to be anything but that. Four years into our first decade found us moving to Hobart, then to Altus where I became a store manager for United.
I held Melanie’s hand as she gave birth to our firstborn son, Jared Stephen in 1981. The two of us were now three. Us holding the little hand of our newborn son gave us a fresh new understanding of the silent language we were learning about. Many times, as one of us was holding Jared, the other would just sit beside the other and we’d hold hands. That silent language.
Five years later, back in Weatherford, once again, I held Melanie’s hand as she gave birth to our second son, Travis Douglas in 1986. At that moment, we learned that love was a multiplier, not a divider. We now had the responsibility of raising these two boys and sharing the joy that we had as they grew up during those years. Many times as a family – we’d walk down the street or any event we were attending – holding hands. That silent language.
We had to say goodbye this decade to Melanie’s Grandpa Brown. As we held hands at his funeral, we learned of a deeper understanding of this silent language.
Our Second Decade (1987-1997) found us back in Altus where I began working at the Home Office of United. In 1992, I reached out for Melanie’s hand as she deboarded from an airplane where she’d flown half way around the world to bring our daughter home to her new family. Taylor Janell completed our family in the summer of 1992. The sweetest little daughter we could have ever dreamed of. The boys were great big brothers to her, always holding her hand to help her learn to walk, and also protecting her as she began to go to school. As a parent, the silent language doesn’t get any sweeter than seeing your children all holding hands walking together and supporting each other.
We moved to Blair, Oklahoma later in this decade as our kids all went to Navajo Schools and Melanie began working at the First Baptist Church as their pianist and secretary to Pastor Keith Wiginton and Music Minister Rod Smith.
The hands that I hold so dearly also has a God given talent to play the piano. She has been a blessing to many people over the years using her gift to play not only for church services, but for many weddings and funerals as well.
This decade, we also held hands at the funeral of my Gramma Barber. My dad’s mother. This was my closest relative that I’d lost, and never knew how bad I would need to feel Melanie’s hand in mine as we walked through this valley together. That silent language.
Our Third Decade (1997-2007) we experienced Jared graduating from High School. Holding hands as proud parents at graduation was again, a new variation of the silent language, only to be followed a year later as Jared got married to his high school sweetheart, Beth Stewart.
We’ll never forget at the wedding rehearsal, when Linda Goodin hit the beginning notes of the wedding march, Melanie & I stood up holding hands as tears ran down our cheeks, once again, discovered a whole new meaning to the silent language.
Travis also graduated this decade and married his high school sweetheart, Sarah Garcia. As Melanie and I held hands at the wedding, a warm feeling we’d experience before was just as sweet this time as the first. Again, growing together with mutliplication and learning just how sweet daughter-in-laws can be. To this day, they both have a great relationship with Melanie as she’s given them all the love and support any mother-in-law could give. They are pretty special to me as well. I think I’m their favorite father-in-law…lol.
But nothing, and I mean nothing can prepare you for experiencing your first grandchild. Holding Melanie’s hand as she came out and gave us all updates during the delivery time of 15 hours was again – a new level in the silent language learnings. Soon we got to hear litte Ms. Avayah Shay take some of her first breaths and seeing her daddy hold her little hand while getting warmed up in the nursery was a “stop you in your tracks” moment to say the least.
Then just a few months later, getting to be at the hospital when Dax Graham came into this world was just amazing. As we all sat in the waiting room, holding hands and sharing memories of days gone by, getting to see the pride in Jared’s face when he got to share his new son with the family was one of life’s greatest moments for sure. Then seeing both Jared & Travis holding their newborn children together, well, it just doesn’t get any better than that!
This decade we said goodbye to our sweet Grandma Brown, Grandpa Roll and my brother Sam. With each of these funerals, Melanie & I never let go of each others’ hand. Never. Sometimes that silent language just needs a tight hold. For a long time.
Our Fourth Decade (2007-2017) found us moving to Birmingham, Alabama where I’d be working for Bruno’s Supermarkets as SVP of Center Store.
Another talent Melanie has using her hands is decorating a house and making it a home. She has been able to do this in every house we’ve ever lived in.
Our second granddaughter, Ms. Adalynne Grace was born in 2008. She is a spitting image of her daddy and has turned out to be quite a little diva. She loves to hold hands and just talk, talk, talk. Sharing every little detail of her life. I see her petting her gramma’s hand as they hold hands when they visit. That silent language.
We moved to Phoenix early in this decade and lived there for five years. Taylor graduated high school at Anthem, AZ in 2011.
We got to experience three more grandchildren this decade – holding each one dearly as they’ve now made us two into thirteen. Amelia Rose, the best little hugger on the planet. And Brody Watts my little swimming buddy, in 2010, followed by Anabella Dawn – who still is young enough she likes to cuddle, in 2013. Getting to hold the hands of all your grandchildren is something that only a grandparent can truly understand. They are so sweet and want to learn all about life, now!
One of the things I’ve had the privelage of doing was teaching all of my children and grandchildren how to swim. It’s all about trust. The ability for them to jump off the side of the pool while I’m standing in front of them with an outstretched hand – they grab it enough times to feel confident and not scared. Silent language.
We moved to Boulder, Colorado in 2014 where I became President of Lucky’s Markets and then to close out this decade, moved to Thibodaux, Louisana in January of 2017 where I became President/COO of Rouses Markets.
This decade we said goodbye to Grandma Roll in 2008, my dad in Aug of 2013 and my mom in Oct of 2014.
The silent language took on a whole new meaning as I lost my parents. I don’t believe I would have made it through both of those times without Melanie’s love, support and strength I felt as she held my hand. We both held hands together with my mom as she took her last breath. Silence. Hold tight. For a long, long, long time.
We’ve stood by the gravesites of many many more friends and family than mentioned here by name, just know that the same influence applies to those too. Silent language.
Our Fifth Decade (2017-2027 Midpoint) finds us moving back to our home in the Rocky Mountains, Black Bear Lodge in Coal Creek Canyon, Golden, Colorado. I will be semi-retired and starting my Leadership/Executive Coaching Firm – abrighterday.life! Taylor is looking forward to finding a horse ranch to help with taking care of the animals she loves!
My first leadership book has an official release date of Dec 19, 2023. What a great journey this has been!
Jared, Beth, Dax and Brody are now in Lubbock Texas, where they are really enjoying the plains of West Texas. Dax got his driver’s license this summer and is enjoying his great grandad’s (Ralph Roll) truck! Brody is active in baseball and looking forward to this school year!
Travis, Sarah, Avayah, Addy, Millie and Bella are in Clive, Iowa where they are enjoying a state they didn’t have on their journey map! Avayah is busy with work and school. Addy is having a fun year as well. We enjoyed taking Amelia, Bella and Brody to Yellowstone this summer for an epic cousins trip like their older siblings took four years ago with Melanie & Taylor!
Because of what we’ve learned in the four and a half decades of those we’ve had to say goodbye to – someday, we’ll reach for that hand to squeeze and it won’t be able to squeeze back. Life does that.
As you can see – 46 years – 4.6 decades – 16,790 days – there are going to be monumental things happen in your life.
Find that person that understands the silent language and never let them go.
I say this for one reason and it is my advice to you today:
Life is a gift, every year, every decade & every day. Even every hour and every minute. So whatever you do, with your life partner, soul mate, spouse or friend. Savor each and every moment. Don’t let a day go by where you don’t offer your hand or you pull it back out of selfishness.
Hands that make a living, make a meal, make a bed, clean a house, raise your children and grandchildren, play the piano or decorate a home – also hold your hand, using the silent language to reach and comfort your soul.
I end with a big thank you to my life partner, soul mate & spouse; Mrs. Melanie Janell Black. You give life to everyone that knows you through your touch. Thank you for teaching me the silent language. I see it every day in you and feel it in every moment with you. I can’t wait to see what the second half of our fifth decade brings to our lives. And the sixth, and the seventh…
I love you forever, I like you for always.