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50 years of living loving

Gercine Carter

50 years of living loving

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Simeon Griffith has been married for 50 years and he still gets excited when he talks about the girl he used to “interfere with” when she passed him in Bridgetown on her way to work at a Swan Street business.

There is no mistaking Simeon’s devotion to Inez. She was the 23-year-old who stole his heart 55 years ago. Captivated by her innocence, he pursued her, determined from the outset this was the one who would wear his ring.

And decades later Inez is not shy to confess her first inclination was to spurn his advances. “At first a mind told me to tell him a bad word. But two spirits told me ‘don’t tell him so’. If he calls you, go back to him and ask him what he wants.”

She followed those “two spirits” and went back “to find out what he want” and tells how she was not at all amused on hearing the man who was constantly  “humbugging her” say he was a seaman.

He started courting her while working on a small vessel that “used to go to Trinidad, load rum and carry it to Nassau”.

Simeon related: “When she and I make friends, I was working on a small vessel and I used to make my jokes and tell her ‘listen darling, when I get one of these big ships like them Harrison boats and start to sail the high seas, you are the first body that is going to draw my money?”

“We would leave Nassau and go to Haiti and load (animal) feed for Goddard’s and bring it up to Barbados.”

By the time they were ready to walk down the aisle of St Paul’s Anglican Church on Bay Street, Simeon had made good on his vow to marry the girl of his dreams when he was in better standing.

By then he had a job on the big ships, his seafaring career taking him on the ocean-going Harrison Line, the Booth line and the Star Line, sailing to South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Canada and the Far East.

It meant the young couple enduring an entire year of separation most of the time, but Simeon consoled himself with the thought “you got to try and abide with it as long as you got to work for your children and your family”.

The time did come, however, when the periods of separation grew shorter, but long or short, he always made sure he kept in contact with his “Nez”.

“We would correspond; sometimes I called her on the phone. The last ship that I was sailing on, used to run from Los Angeles to Canada and back. I used to spend six months and come home and spend about six weeks and go back. I would just call her on the phone when I am going to leave and when I arrive in the next port I would call her, because she could not call me.”

Hearing her voice on the other end was the spark he needed as he confessed, “I used to miss her and she used to miss me.”

Babies also came quickly, the first at age 24, twins at age 25 then a second set of twins and when the couple observed their 50th wedding anniversary recently, their seven children and grandchildren shared the celebration and acknowledged their good fortune at being blessed with wonderful parents.

For most of their married life, with Simeon away at sea, Inez had to manage affairs at home. She does not forget he missed the birth of all their children.

“He would just come, put them, and out and gone,” she said, laughing, and remembered a friend teasing her husband “ah boy yuh got two to hold this time,” when he returned from sea to be greeted with the couple’s first set of twins.

He is quick though to point out he did all he could to make up for absence whenever he came home.

“Most of the years I was away from the children. But they knew daddy is out and they knew daddy would bring something for them. I used to buy up things and bring home three boxes of things for the kids, all sorts of things that I could buy and bring from them.”

“When I come home, I would take them into town and all they had to say was ‘daddy I want so and so and I would just pay for it’ . . . . What the wife couldn’t do, I would do when I come home.”

On those breaks from seafaring, he also took over the reins of the kitchen, every day treating the whole family to his well-honed culinary skills. That continues to this day.

“I am always in the kitchen” said the 79-year-old agile father. His 78-year-old wife, his seven children and the grandchildren all look forward to the meals he prepares for them all. Jesting about his wife’s contribution he remarked, “All she is going to do when I am finished is to sit down and eat.” This is one husband who leaves no doubt about how happy he is cooking for his wife.

“When the morning comes I get up, do what I have to do around the house, sometimes I make breakfast for her, I go into town, shop and come back home and prepare lunch. I go and buy my greens on Saturdays and prepare for Sundays, go to church and then come back and finish off.”

Though they have all flown the coop, the Griffith children know they are sure to find a hot meal at lunchtime. Hurrying along the Easy interview which was beginning to encroach on his lunchtime preparation, he explained that “right now I getting ready to stir some twisted meal (cou cou) and fish” for a grandson who will soon be here for lunch.”

In this marriage, the husband appears to be the more talkative, but he insists it is good communication between them that has kept them together through the years.

“We communicate very, very nice. If she tells me ‘look, do so and so’, I might get a little bit annoyed but I am still going to do it. The same goes for her. I look out for her all the time as well as she looks out for me.”

He added: “You know you would have your little ups and downs but it don’t last too long, because you know tongue and teeth would have words, but it never lasts long.”

And Inez concurred with her husband’s view that, “It is bad to go to sleep knowing that you and the person got a little misunderstanding but try and don’t wake up tomorrow morning with the same thing.”

Here is one couple who readily say they have had no rough periods in their marriage. They put it down to prayer and having “lived loving”.

“In our 50 years of marriage, if I say I have regrets, I would be lying,” Simeon said before darting off to stir his family’s cou cou.