By Anita Debro
Special to the Birmingham Times
“You Had Me at Hello’’ highlights married couples and the love that binds them. If you would like to be considered for a future “Hello’’ column, or know someone who would, please send nominations to Ariel Worthy at email@example.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
CAROLYN AND ALBERT JONES
Married: March 3, 2001
Met: It was January 2000 when Carolyn and her two young daughters had just moved to Alabama from Cleveland after leaving a bad relationship. She was working in the Galleria in Hoover when she saw Albert, a Montevallo native.
Albert said he was struck by her beauty so he just stared. “I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen,” Albert recalled. “And I did not know what to say to her.”
“I thought he was a stalker,” Carolyn recalled. “I did not like him.”
So Albert asked his friend to talk to her. Carolyn said she agreed to walk around the mall with him when she was on her break. “But that was it.”
She passed along her telephone number, and Albert called her every day. But Carolyn either avoided his calls or only had brief conversations. “I did not want to date,” she said. “I was scared.”
First date: Albert caught Carolyn on one of her lunch breaks that
February and asked her if she wanted to get something to eat. So they went across the street from the Galleria to Wendy’s. He teased her because she peeled the skin off of her baked potato and she teased him because he ate his french fries with ketchup and mayo. She felt more relaxed and comfortable with Albert after that lunch date.
The unexpected: A few days later on February 13 Carolyn received a call from Albert’s father. “Albert always called me, but on that day his father called,” she said. Albert had passed out the day before and had been admitted to the hospital. He was diagnosed with diabetes. Even though they barely knew one another, Carolyn said she felt compelled to visit Albert in the hospital. Albert said he remembered being in the hospital room with his grandmother and an ex-girlfriend when he heard the sound of high heels clicking down the hall. “I knew it was her,” he said. “But I didn’t know she was coming to see me.”
Albert introduced Carolyn as his girlfriend. After that hospital stay, Carolyn and Albert slowly grew closer. Carolyn needed an apartment so he helped out. Carolyn said she needed help with her daughters and Albert and his large family (he is one of 27 grandchildren) were there to help. “It was like Montevallo and his family had become my village,” she said. “I didn’t like him at first, but then all of a sudden I loved him.”
Before her first date with Albert, Carolyn said had a dream about meeting her husband. She realized later that dream was about Albert. “It was just meant to be,” she said.
The proposal: One night Albert had been helping out with Carolyn’s daughters and when she came home she told him to leave. “I did not believe in sleeping over,” Carolyn said. Albert left but not before telling her that they should get married. A month or so later, Albert and Carolyn travelled to Cleveland and Albert told her family his intentions to marry her. Albert said Carolyn’s godfather was hesitant. “He scared me to death,” Albert recalled. But once the two men talked more, they were both in agreement that Albert just wanted do right by Carolyn.
The wedding: The couple wed at Ward Chapel AME in Montevallo. Carolyn and Albert thought they would simply go to the courthouse to get married. But Albert’s family insisted the two marry in church. “They put together a real wedding in a week,” she said. “When I was walking down the aisle, I just could not believe that everything looked so good.” Carolyn was so stunned by the decorations and the packed chapel that it took her a few seconds to realize that her groom-to-be was not at the altar. “I just thought to myself I am going to kill him,” she joked.
Albert said he and his groomsmen had walked out of the chapel to talk to the pastor and the pastor went back in after a while but the groom and groomsmen did not follow. “We were distracted,” he said. The men ran into the chapel after hearing the bridal procession. “It was hilarious,” Carolyn said.
Words of Wisdom: “Always view your partner as an extension of yourself,” Carolyn said. And, she added, live your vows — all of them: in sickness and health, for richer or poorer— as if God were right there watching.
Talking is key to maintaining a healthy relationship, Albert said. “Communication is important,” he said. “You have to talk to each other. Talk instead of holding things in.” Opening up to one another on a regular basis is better than letting bad feelings fester. “You may end up saying or doing something that you don’t mean,” Albert said.
Happily ever after: Albert and Carolyn have three daughters: Briana, Britany and Alyse and a 2-year-old grandson. The couple’s road has not been easy with Albert’s diabetes. A few years ago, Albert learned he would need a new kidney. He has been on dialysis treatment since then and awaits a donor. “It has really forced us to slow down and think about what is important,” Carolyn said. Albert said they enjoy being able to spend time with one another and with the family. Carolyn said the health challenges and those in their relationship have taught them a lot about being appreciative. “There is nothing you can’t get through” without the help of God, she said.