I fell in love with Clyde almost 50 years ago during the summer of 1971. I was a senior cheerleader at Terry High School in Terry, Mississippi, and Clyde was a city boy who won my teenage adoration because his voice sounded like Gold on the telephone. When he first started to drive down from Jackson State to see me, my mom liked him pretty well. My older brothers, on the other hand, gave him a hard time because he was as old as they were and a bit rough around the edges.
Naturally, though, as is tradition with the heart of teenage girls, the things that made my brothers so alarmed about Clyde, were the things that drew me closer to him. After a year of all-night-long phone calls, we grew inseparable. So when it was time for me to choose a school for my college education, it came as no surprise to my family and friends that I would choose Jackson State University (JSU) to pursue my Biology degree and, of course, be closer to Clyde. During my first year of college, Clyde (a popular senior) and I were seldom apart.
I was Miss Freshman, and we were known campus-wide as “the couple.” Many of our friends from back then claim they never saw me anywhere that year without seeing him following closely behind. I remember dates to The Dairy Queen and Clyde being mad because I would bring my friends along, and he would have to pay for us all! I also remember long car rides listening to The Temptations, “Just My Imagination,” and Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.”
We were head over heels for one another. I loved Clyde dearly, but I also understood what falling in love could mean for the academic aspirations of a young southern woman in the 70s. While most girls my age at the time were content with finding a suitable husband and settling into a domestic, family-life; I was not. I reminded Clyde frequently that I planned to become a doctor and that there was nothing that would stand in the way of this. Clyde took on my goals and dreams as his own.
He never tried to persuade me to be less ambitious or less outgoing. He took me seriously as an individual, regardless of my gender, and respected me as an equal when it came to my professional capacity and intellectual value. He would say to me, “Rena, if you want to be a doctor, then a doctor is what WE will be.” It is this same selflessness to which we can contribute our successes over the years, particularly, the longevity of our union.
We have never, for one second, felt alone. Clyde has always been my very best friend and closest confidant. I genuinely believe an uninterrupted bond between husband and wife, putting one another first, before everyone else (including children although some may consider this debatable), is the key to an indestructible union.
While I was a sophomore, I went off for a summer to study science at Harvard University. This was the first time Clyde and I had been apart in about four years since the day we met. I remember calling Clyde on the phone and telling him about my experiences at Harvard. I told him about this one guy who was trying to date me. I guess he was jealous because when I got back home, he was waiting for me on one knee at the airport!
I instantly said yes to Clyde without reservation. After 45 years of marriage and almost 50 years of being together, we are still “the couple” everyone remembers from those days at Jackson State University. We have two beautiful children and two beautiful grandchildren, who we love dearly. We still take long car rides to the Dairy Queen, and our song, Just My Imagination, has become a timeless, Black American classic.
It perfectly describes our love back then, and even today, it feels like a fairytale, except it is not. It is deep and intricate. It’s on-going, and it’s the REAL deal.
Reflections by Dr. Jasmin Chapman