Ricardo and Lelia Gibbs. (Picture by Dominique Bonnett.)
Fifty years is definitely not fifty days. One couple who knows this full well is Ricardo and Lelia Gibbs, who have been married for 50 years.
The now retired couple celebrated their milestone anniversary on February 24 of this year.
When asked the secret to making it to 50 years and still enjoying marital bliss, the couple said it took hard work, dedication and pure, unadulterated love.
Lelia was quick to add, “Having God at the centre of it all makes the biggest difference.”
Ricardo and Lelia met as teenagers in England. The first meeting, however, was not the nicest one, but yet set the tone for an amazing relationship to come.
“When I first saw her I swore at her. I was asking her a question and before she answered she kept staring at me. Her hair at the time covered her ears because she had a lot of it. I said to her, ‘If you would take off the wig off your head, you would hear me’, not realising that it was all her hair. Little did I know she was admiring me – that’s why she was staring,” Ricardo recalled.
Lelia agreed that she was awestruck when she first saw him and was at a complete loss for words.
“When I first met him I was a Christian. They were other guys but I didn’t like any of them. When I saw him he came to the house with my uncle. And I asked who was this guy. Then I saw him again and I started to fall in love with him . . . ,” she said.
The couple were married two years after that meeting and their union produced one son, even though Lelia initially wanted three children.
“I wanted to have three children but the first one was so painful I didn’t want to go through that anymore. I had morning sickness for evermore. But I have four grandkids to make up for that,” she added with a laugh.
As the couple sat in their living room in their Melrose, St Thomas home, they told EASY magazine they were enjoying all the pleasures of retirement and enjoying each other. They took pleasure in showing the team around their home . . . smiling at pictures of their son and grandchildren, one of whom played football for Arsenal for a few years.
Ricardo and Lelia, both 74, reflected on their wedding day, saying it still felt as though it was yesterday. For Lelia, it was the happiest day of her life. Ricardo, however, while he was happy, had a few other concerns.
“I can remember the day we got married as though it was yesterday. It was cold and I was broke. Everyone was giving speeches and I was there angry because I spent all my money on the wedding. A guy came and gave me an envelope and I opened it and saw a £10 and then our landlord’s present was living for that week without payment,” he said.
Lelia recalled, “It was a very cold day. I got dressed by a friend’s house and I was shaking. There were some who were saying that the marriage wasn’t going to last, but look at us today. Never listen to negativity.”
While reflecting on the last 50 years, both Ricardo and Lelia marvelled at how much they really love each other.
“50 years of marriage isn’t all smoothness but I think where a marriage is concerned, once you love someone, and they do things you don’t like, you can talk to them and let them know you don’t like what they’re doing.”
“Yes, we fuss sometimes, but as we went on in years, I got to find out who he really is and why he does things. Patience is also key. Over time you get used to each other. He became a Christian shortly after. We understand each other a lot more. As we get older, we gel a lot more. Sometimes he says things and I pretend I don’t hear and so on. God ahead of everything makes this work,” Lelia said.
Ricardo, while gazing lovingly at his wife, said the key to their marriage lasting 50 years was his Lelia.
“The key to making this work is her really. I’m not always nice. But she never quarrels, she ignores me when I’m fussing and I eventually get in my car and go cool off and come back.
“My favourite thing about her has never changed. She was always nice. I can’t fault her. She’s always there for me and, to be honest, the marriage has lasted this long because of who she is,” he added.
Lelia, who by this point was blushing, added, “I think all in all I just have to give God all the praise for the time we have together. Yes, Ricardo has changed in many ways and I thank God we are still together. I still love him very much.”
Ricardo replied with ‘Thank you very much’ as he gently rubbed her hand.
While remarking that young people of today are quite different from back then, Ricardo advised them, even specifically speaking to the EASY team, to take it slow and be even slower to anger.
“This generation is a lot different. We came along in the 1960s and it wasn’t a bed of roses. You had to make things work, you had to sacrifice things and so on. You just have to try to love each other. Fighting and beating up and so on is a no-no. We don’t get into that, and you shouldn’t either,” Ricardo advised.
Lelia’s thoughts were to be in relationships for the right reasons and to seek wise counsel.
“The young people today shouldn’t get married for the wrong reasons. Don’t pretend you are in love with a guy because he’s got money or a big job. I think sometimes people get tied up with the wrong person.
“Loving one another is key. Every relationship is different but you should always try to involve God. Children are young and the parents are young. Some parents don’t go to church and can’t really advise the children about the Christian way. We just have to continue praying,” she added. (DB)