“Frankie & Johnny Were Lovers
Oh, Lordy How They Could Love…”
Actually, I don’t really know a thing about Frankie, but I do know Wendi, and Wendi and Johnny Conway are a love story; there’s nothing else to call them. I realize it every single time I see them together, hear them talk about each other, or watch them share a laugh together. In fact, Wendi and Johnny might just be one of the happiest couples I know, and when a thought of the two of them happens to flitter through my mind, I smile, knowing that they have discovered “the secret,” whatever it is.
Quite honestly, their story began in 1986, and it should have had a very different ending…
Wendi Mullings was 15 when she began working at Golden Fried Chicken in Comanche, Texas.
“My parents had to sign for me to be able to work at all, and then I had to get a hardship license so that I could drive to work. Johnny was 20…”
Of course, I interrupted her here as anyone would have done! I’m sure you see my first problem with the story.
Wendi picked the story back up as if I had not rudely interrupted her. “Johnny would always come through the drive through and ask me out, and I’d always tell him that I was going with someone else. Then, one weekend he came through and said, ‘So I guess you’re still not going to go out with me?’”
Before I tell you what Wendi said, you need to understand that there were problems here other than just the age factor. Johnny was grown and worked out of town all week…with Wendi’s FATHER, who had no idea that his young coworker was interested in his baby girl. The two carpooled together, worked together, and spent much time together every week…
“As a matter of fact I will,” Wendi surprised Johnny by finally agreeing to go out with him!
“We had to do a lot of sneaking around,” Johnny turned to me and said. “I was working with her dad in Houston, and we’d work all week and then come home every weekend. We carpooled so we’d ride in together, and I’d spend the weekend with Wendi and then go back with her dad, but he never knew.”
By this point in the story, both were giggling like the young couple they were back then as they retraced their steps through the early days of their relationship. I feel sure that my jaw was slightly dropped as I listened to their escapades (most of which I would never print, you understand!) and thought of Johnny Conway calmly climbing in that vehicle every Monday morning for that long drive with Mr. Mullings, who “the kids” insist never knew that they were dating.
“He did like me, and I didn’t think he would say anything if he found out,” Johnny shared.
Wendi disagreed, and I was prone to agree with her! “I had hinted around that I’d like to go out with Johnny, and Daddy said, ‘No, you don’t have any business going out with a man!’”
The couple and I went on to discuss how much easier it was to get away with things “back in the day,” with no cell phones and certainly with no social media to snare us in its trap.
“We spent lots of time in Brownwood because no one knew us there. Our first official date as a couple was a double date and we ate at the Section Hand in Brownwood. We just rocked on,” she smiled. “My mom knew, and Johnny’s family knew, and everyone understood that my dad couldn’t know. We dated for four years and he never knew.”
And I had to interrupt again. FOUR years, they dated for FOUR years without telling her dad! Do you see why I believe that this story should have had another ending, why it just wasn’t written to be the happily every after love story that it has become?
“My dad was very strict and if you lived under his roof, you went by his rules. About a month before we married when I was 19, we told him that we were dating.”
Apparently, by the time Wendi was out of school and 19, Mr. Mullings was happy about the dating relationship, and that was a good thing since he had to get used to the idea of dating and a wedding all within about thirty days!
And crazy as it sounds…and it does sound crazy….the whole thing seems to have worked beautifully. Of course, Johnny Conway would have to be insane not to be unbelievably happy with a wife who adores him as much as Wendi obviously does.
“First of all, I like to say that Johnny was the first to bring in the whole starched Wranglers with the tuxedo jacket. I had never seen that done before. He is still the hottest groom known to modern man!”
Apparently, the Wranglers weren’t meant to be, but there was some type of problem with the tuxedo, and Wendi’s mom came to the rescue with the Wrangler idea.
“We just had a small home wedding with a finger foods and cake-type reception. That was April 19, 1989. We didn’t do the big huge wedding, no get down on your knee. A lot of people do all of that stuff, and two years later it’s over.”
And so I asked the question that I had continued to ask throughout the entire story. “It’s worked. Why are you still married, still obviously very much in love with each other when most people are not?”
From this point on, I couldn’t really tell who was talking as the couple talked hard and fast, often on top of each other as they tried to explain their feelings about a marriage that obviously suits them both just fine.
“So many people throw in the towel. You just have to know that those bad times will go away. When it’s good, it’s real, real good. When it is bad, you have to remember that those bad times will go away.”
“We both have done things we wish we could take back, but we don’t quit.”
“We are total opposites. He is very, very quiet, very, very easy going…”
“She freezes me out of the house…”
“Yea, and he just quietly puts on a jacket and smiles at me…”
“I have really bad anxiety and he is my calm. If I have a bad day, I just want him to sit next to me because he is such a calm person. He has that effect. If you have too much in common with your mate, it is boring.”
“We have comfortable silence…”
“We each have our area where we do our own thing at home, but if we aren’t busy we so, so spend all of our time together. When first got married he had motorcycle. We loved it, but we sold it when the kids started coming. And in the blink of an eye they were grown…”
“And on my birthday this year, she bought me a new one, and we are back to riding again. We don’t have grandchildren, and we can do what we want to do now.”
“Don’t give up. Even if you think you can’t get past something, you can. It doesn’t have anything to do with religion or disappointment, or failing. It just has to do with loving someone unconditionally.”
“Our life hasn’t all been smooth sailing, but we have made it work. We are friends, and we genuinely enjoy spending our time together. A lot of people like doing things with others, but we just genuinely like doing things together.”
“Since we have gotten older and the kids are grown…”
“It really does happen in the blink of an eye, like they say, you know…”
We have date night every week. I don’t want us to be an older married couple and have nothing in common so we take time once a week to have date night.”
“I knew she was it when I first laid eyes on her. You know, you go through so many girlfriends, and then when I found her, I knew what I had found, that she was it, and I had never felt like that before. My dad kept telling me that she was a little too young, but before he passed away, I was able to say, ‘I told you so’” the quiet spoken Johnny grinned at me, leaving me with a line of an old Tanya Tucker song running through my mind…
“The world says they’ll never make it; love says they will.”