“You look like shit.”

That’s what my oldest brother said to me as I got in the car one morning.

It was the summer of 1983, and I was a junior in high school.

As part of our morning routine, I was headed over to his long-time girlfriend’s house to be dropped off so that I could ride the school bus with her daughter who was a senior.

Never mind the fact that I lived with him, his wife, and their three sons at the time, or the fact that I didn’t even like going to his girlfriend’s house because it felt like a betrayal to my sister-in-law who I loved dearly, or the fact that I knew what he was doing was wrong and I wanted no parts of it.

With all of that going on, my appearance that day should have been the least of his worries. Nevertheless, he said what he said, and I got dropped off.

I bring up this story because occurrences like this – and many others I witnessed growing up – helped set the vision for what I wanted for my future marriage.

And I knew I didn’t want that.

A husband who could speak such harsh words, cheat on his wife, and not give a second thought about how it all might be affecting not only his little sister, but his own family was not the image I had in my head.

Luckily for me, God had other plans. I would meet my future husband Frank that same summer in 1983 and we began a romance that would last for nearly four decades.

Throughout this time, I learned that just because two people have longevity in their marriage like my brother and his wife did – as well as other couples I knew along the way – doesn’t mean they value each other or even enjoy the time they spend together.

If you’re miserable and unhappy, what good does being together do?

Sometimes people endure a marriage and never get an ounce of enjoyment out of it. Other times they let their own selfishness get in the way of giving what the other person needs and the relationship suffers.

We can’t be absentee spouses on the regular and then expect to have our lack of respect and engagement erased just because we have a long history together.

The years don’t matter if the quality time is not there. You’re simply existing together at that point.

If quality over quantity is any indication of what a true marriage should be, then I can honestly say that my husband Frank did his job very well in the 38 years we were married.

Was it perfect? Hell, no! We both made mistakes all the time.

But he was intentional with the quality time he invested, and that made all the difference. He put in the work and embodied what a good husband and father looks like.

Even though Frank’s no longer here on this earth with me, I was and still am proud to be his wife.

I am so thankful for the many wonderful things I was able to experience during our marriage together.

He left an amazing blueprint for our sons to follow and set an even higher bar for any man I might meet in the future.

It’s been a little over a year, but I miss him like crazy every day.

Over our 38 years together, there have been countless ways I saw my husband show love, generosity, and the true character of a man to others.

But personally speaking, here are 38 things that made all the difference for ME:

  1. Never doing anything that would make me question his love or loyalty.
  2. Being consistent and true to his word. If Frank said he was going to do something, he did it.
  3. Being a good guy and a bad boy all rolled into one. He made life a thrilling – and sometimes dangerous – adventure.
  4. Making me smile and laugh all the time with his sense of humor, even when I was mad at him.
  5. Keeping the bedroom passion and fire burning. Even as we got older and things didn’t always work the way they should, it was still hot.
  6. Teaching me how to drive a car and ride a motorcycle.
  7. Not being afraid to show the softer side of manhood or being afraid to cry.
  8. Being a devoted son and adoring his parents, especially his mother. This is how I knew he was the one.
  9. Having the courage to step up and take responsibility for being a teenage father. If he was terrified, he never let it show.
  10. Being an awesome dad to our two sons and an even better pawpaw to our granddaughter.
  11. Being the most beautiful chapter in the book of my life.
  12. Being the best thing that ever happened to me.
  13. Doing what a real man does to provide and protect his family by any means necessary, even if it means taking serious risks.
  14. Making me feel like I am more than enough and never “too much”. There’s no such thing when you’re with the right person.
  15. Giving more than he took.
  16. Loving me as I am, flaws and all.
  17. Helping me see that sometimes love is worth waiting and fighting for.
  18. Making his actions speak louder than his words.
  19. Inspiring me to persevere by watching him overcome some of the toughest challenges with sheer strength and dogged determination.
  20. Accepting my family for who they are, even the haters.
  21. Not letting time or distance test our love and proving that a long-distance relationship can work if two people really want it to.
  22. Writing me love letters in the 80s when we first started dating that I still have and cherish to this day.
  23. Saving my life even before I knew I needed a hero.
  24. Being a morning person and a light sleeper and making me feel safe enough to sleep through a storm with him in the house.
  25. Never being a quitter – on like anything.
  26. Choosing me from day one, even when his family had doubts.
  27. Putting in the work to help me build something that only death could tear down.
  28. Making love, happiness, and a good marriage look good on our children.
  29. Helping me become a better woman, wife, mother, and grandmother because I had the perfect partner.
  30. Trusting me to take care of him when he got sick.
  31. Keeping it drama and baby-mama free.
  32. Holding my hand for decades – through the birth of two children, the death of my mother, the funerals of seven brothers, and just because.
  33. Being my rock and my soft place to fall.
  34. Setting the gold standard for what commitment looks like.
  35. Getting a tattoo of my name on his chest and forcing me to return his allegiance with one of my own (posthumously in his honor). That’s the true definition of real commitment, on both our parts.
  36. Believing in me and my talents long before I knew what I had inside of me.
  37. Being the best secret keeper. Frank literally took to the grave whatever secrets he knew – about anybody. I found this trait to be frustrating and noble at the same time.
  38. Being the only one I would do this life all over again with – if only I could.

And there you have it. What are some things your spouse did that made all the difference for you?

By the way, November is Frank’s birthday month, so I figured this would be the perfect birthday gift to honor him all month long.

Happy Birthday, babe! #Forever54

Let’s keep in touch! If anything resonated with you, please leave a comment below or find me on Instagram @tofrankwithlove


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Joyce was born and raised in Oklahoma and is the youngest of sixteen children. She has worked in the education and nonprofit industries for over 15 years. She holds a bachelor's degree in Organizational Leadership.

In the summer of 1983, at the age of sixteen, Joyce met her husband and soulmate Frank and soon after started a family. They were married for over 38 wonderful and adventurous years.

Joyce is a mother to two adult sons, a grandmother to a feisty Leo granddaughter, and a transplant wife and widow after Frank passed away due to COVID-19 complications on August 25, 2021 after receiving a kidney transplant four years earlier. He died exactly one week before her birthday.

Joyce's writings on grief, love, loss, and the beautiful mess in between are an intimate look at life without her husband Frank and how his unexpected and untimely death showed her that nothing in this world lasts forever, even true love, and that life can change in one tragic instant.

You can read more of Joyce’s writings about her beloved Frank on Instagram @tofrankwithlove