“In my subconscious, she is always there with me. I say that if you cut me open and look in my blood you would find lots of tiny little Barbara's in there “
Barbara and Graham have been married for fifty-two years. They met on Long Island, New York, in 1967. They started the interview by telling me that “Everyone always says that we should write a book about our story;” and they are not wrong. This blog article cannot do their fabulous story justice, but still here is their invaluable advice and the tale of how they came to be Barbara and Graham.
Barbara expressed that when it came to them both “you couldn’t get two more different people.” But Graham added, “Well no, we are opposites in our outer skin, but one layer down we are identical; we have all the same values and dreams.”
I couldn’t wait to speak to Barbara and Graham about what makes a successful relationship and see what love means to him.
Graham was born in Halifax, England and was raised in Brighton after his mother relocated during the Second World War. When he left school he took a five-year apprenticeship as an Electro-Mechanical Engineer working on flight simulators, at the time here were only six companies in the world that operated in that business and one of them was on Long Island; that company offered him a job, which he took. He recalled that he was dating a girl at the time and that he talked to a friend about that relationship and whether or not he should move to America with her. His friend replied, “My granddad once said to me, ‘When you are looking to settle down, don't look for a girl you can live with. Look for one you can't live without.’” And so Graham moved to Long Island as a bachelor.
Barbara was born and raised in Liverpool, England. As soon as she was old enough, she asked her father to sign her passport to allow her to take up employment as a nanny in America. She was successful in securing a position for a television executive in Long Island.
They met in a bar called Molly and Me, Graham recalled, “It was all her fault, a few English nannies arrived at the bar and she was the one that smiled back.” They met again a few weeks later and Graham wrote her number down on the back of a packet of cigarettes. He said, “When driving home, I finished the cigarettes and tossed the box out of the window, (It was a different day and age).” He spent the next few days exhausting all his contacts to find her phone number. He had no luck, but knowing that nannies were given Sundays off, at 11a.m. the next Sunday, he turned up on her doorstep where he found Barbara with her hair in rollers! An hour later they had they had their first date.
They quickly became very close, but after about six weeks Barbara’s contract ended and Barbara had to go back to England. They stayed in touch, writing and calling and after three months she came back to New York managing to secure her old job as a nanny.
A few weeks later they became engaged, Graham took her to a local park and got down on one knee beside the duck pond and asked her to marry him.
Barbara explained that it was easy for her to say yes, “Graham is a gentleman; he would open the car door for me. He is very funny, very chatty. He was kind and it drew to him.”
Graham expressed, “I knew on the second or third date that she was the one.”
Barbara’s employer had a brother who owned a jewelry shop; he came over to the house and helped her pick out a diamond. It cost $300, and at the time Graham’s weekly wage was $115. Graham commented “It was the best investment I have ever made.”
The following spring, April 1968, they were married in England. It was the first chance that they had to meet each other’s families. Barbara didn’t warm to Graham’s mother and was a little worried when her sister said to her, “You’re not marrying his mum, you’re marrying him.”
Fifty years later, Graham took Barbara back to the same duck pond where they became engaged, he got down on his knee again and asked her to marry him, this time he needed help from a nearby couple to help him back to his feet!
After fifty-two years, four children and seven grandchildren, they are still happily married and living together in Charlotte, NC. With all these happy years together, here is their invaluable advice.
Emmaleen: Can you tell us a loving story from your relationship?
Barbara: “We both lived away from our families and so we wanted a big family of our own. I was in the hospital alone after the birth of our third child, I had had a C-section and a nurse was a little abrupt with me. I was feeling a little emotional, sitting in the chair feeling low when the door opened and it was Graham. He had been to buy the baby an outfit to go home in. He always has a way of being there when I need him. I’ll never forget that, it was as though I sent him a message somehow.”
What is the key to a happy relationship?
Graham: “Give and take.
Barbara: “When you are married a long time, there are things that you have to go through. No matter what, don’t give up, it’s easy to give up, it’s harder to try.”
Graham: “The bad times never came between us. There was a bad financial time for us after the space industry in which I worked for came crashing down but it never affected our relationship. I then spent some years selling life insurance before I became qualified as a financial planner and set up my own business. My life is a series of accidents, my advice is to say yes, you can always say no after, but you can’t say yes after. Go for it, embrace it.”
Barbara: “This isn’t a dress rehearsal, this is it.”
Graham: “You can build any monument you like and one day it will come tumbling down. The only mark you can make that goes on forever is your kids and their kids and their kids. Family is the most important thing. No one ever laid on their death bed saying, ‘I wish I spent more time at the office.’”
What is Love?
Graham: “In my subconscious, she is always there with me. I say that if you cut me open and look in my blood you would find lots of tiny little Barbara's in there. It is knowing that no matter how much you screw up, they will still be there. I can count on her more than I can count on me. I make a living, but my wife makes my living worthwhile.”
Barbara: "It’s the one person that you cannot live without."
So what is his advice to anyone looking for love?
Graham: “Don’t look for it. Let it happen. You have to expose yourself and mix with the right groups. People like nice people, expose yourself to situation where it will find you.”
Barbara: “Just put yourself out there, out there with the intention of finding someone. There are so many places that you can go to where you can meet someone.”
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