50 years of love and they still say ‘I do’
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love”. 1 Corinthians 13:13
THIS FAMILIAR Bible verse is no ordinary one for John and Gail Maskell. It has positively piloted their marriage for the last 50 years.
Theirs, they say, is like a rosebush, full of beautiful, blooming roses amidst the prickly thorns of life.
The Maskells will be celebrating 50 years of nuptials later this month, but don’t think for one minute it did not have its air pockets.
She was a stewardess with British West Indies Airways, making her third flight from St Vincent and overnighting in Barbados, because of bad weather, when her eyes landed on John, a ground operator with Pan American Airways.
In their happy and comfortable twilight years, they look back on their journey with no regrets.
April 18, back in 1965, was the big day when they fastened their seat belts and took off together for life’s destination.
They fondly recall it like it was just yesterday. The two exchanged vows in Trinidad on Easter Sunday, being specially accommodated by their priest during the church’s most busy holy season.
Gail, cozying up to John on the couch in their living room at their hangar in Highgate Gardens, St Michael, throws back her head, laughing lustily as she recounts how their route together has been a near perfect flight.
From that time until now at 72 years old, Gail hasn’t taken her eyes off the man who she knew then would one day become her husband.
John, a year younger, also had an eye for Gail back then.
“I had seen her before,” he said, explaining that based on the location of the offices of the two airlines, Gail’s every move was under his microscope.
The two never exchanged a word, but Gail had already been briefed by a mutual friend that John was checking her out.
When the time came for their first date, the found they enjoyed a comfortable flying altitude right away.
“It was if it was meant to be. We had dinner the Friday night at a place called Bonni Dundee, a hotel that was in St Lawrence Gap,” Gail recalled.
That night they also found out that they shared the same birth date, November 16, one year apart.
The two courted for two years thereafter, although, when they summed it up, they only really spent a total of six weeks together during that time.
“I used to spend about $4.80, ten per cent of the total airfare, to get to Barbados as often as I could. Sometimes we would speak on the phones – and not cellphones or emails either.
We spoke on the airlines phones and then when I was intransit for about five minutes or so, we would see each other,” Gail recalled.
John, who was listening attentively to Gail’s recap, looks even more alert at this point.
“I used to drive from St Lucy where I used to do shooting as a sport and head to the airport just to see Gail for the five minutes she was here,” he said.
Not a man of many words, John did say, in his “no fuss” way, that he used to miss her when they were not together.
He admits too that when he met Gail, he believed he had been propelled into the life of a person he could really love.
Speaking about that magical moment of lift-off, she said: “After I met him, I never thought of being with anyone else. I knew this was the man I could marry someday.”
One day when Gail had flown into the island and the flight was delayed, the couple headed to the Crane Hotel in St Philip to pass the hours away over drinks and conversation.
This was the day Gail summed up the courage to navigate the big suggestion – that they stop shuttling from Trinidad and St Lucy and they get married.
Gail was tired “flying up and down” to see her love. “We were both complaining of not clocking enough hours together, so I asked why don’t we get married?”, she added.
On John’s 21st birthday in 1964, the couple officially got engaged before a gathering of friends at a home, Faraway, in St Philip.
Five months later these two lovebirds found themselves walking down the aisle before 500 guests.
“During Lent you couldn’t have flowers in the church and you couldn’t get married during Lent in those days. That’s why I chose Easter Sunday plus it was a long weekend so our Bajan friends could come down for the long weekend,” said Gail.
They honeymooned in Tobago.
Reflecting, the parents of three children Michael, Julie and Marie-Lisa, ten grandchildren and “one in heaven” and two great grands, they insist God has been the glue holding their marriage together.
John said he became a Catholic 30 years ago, nothing to do with the fact that Gail already was. She didn’t force him.
They both have been going to mass every single day for years, except Saturdays when they head to Brighton Market to help raise funds for the Living Water Community, which is part of the Catholic Church.
Forgiveness, they say, is also a big part of marriage, as well as each person giving 100 per cent both ways.
“A marriage involves two different people from two different backgrounds, living together. Of course there are going to be differences, but you must be able to say sorry. You are not always right but you must recognise where you went wrong and say sorry,” Gail said.
Her grandmother’s words also helped her through some challenges.
“My grandmother, who also made it to 50 years in her marriage, would always say ‘if you love your husband never leave him.”
“The honeymoon doesn’t last long. It goes after years of marriage. The butterflies also go and that’s when you experience what marriage really is,” she explained from the wisdom of experience.
Gail and John are the first to admit that they have had good times and bad times but they made their vows count during the years.
“Marriage is a vocation,” said Gail, while not advocating a person staying in a marriage if they are being ill-treated or abused, she said: “I never entertained the idea of not being there for the whole journey. Marriage is not a bed of roses. You have a lot of thorns along the way” she said.