Wednesday, August 27, 1997
A life of love that blossoms
like violets

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Ginnie and Wayne Gasper are lucky in love, and it shows.

You can see it in Ginnie's huge brown eyes. When Wayne walks into a room, her eyes grow even larger.

His love appears in his manners. As he pulls out her chair, he gives her back a slow, affectionate pat when they sit down to lunch.

And this is after raising five children and being married for 50 years.

''There isn't a day that goes by that we're not thanking the Lord for one another,'' says Ginnie, 73.

''At this stage in life,'' adds Wayne, 71, ''it takes two of you to get through the day. You're not consistent about what you forget. So, we fill in each other's gaps.''

Ginnie smiles at his little joke.

Then her smile fades to a worried frown. Months ago, she sent in a ''Lunch with Cliff'' coupon and a note. Ginnie wrote in her droll way that she and her husband were interested in sharing a midday meal and telling me what life's like ''for an odd couple in an old folks' institution.'' The Gaspers live in a cottage on the grounds of Maple Knoll Village.

But now, as we sit in the couple's living room before strolling over to the retirement community's Manor House restaurant, she's having second thoughts.

''Our life is soooooooo dull,'' she says throwing up her hands in despair. ''We don't do anything exciting.''

It's true the Gaspers don't travel to exotic places.

''Not since Wayne had a bunch of heart attacks,'' Ginnie says. ''That's why we moved here from Forest Park three years ago.''

Their exercise habits and their hobbies are quiet pursuits.

''We take water aerobics classes in the morning at the pool,'' Wayne says.

''He's usually the only old man among eight old ladies,'' Ginnie notes.

''All of us have faded bathing suits,'' she continues. ''They have that pool so sterile it fades the bathing suits. Then they get holes in them.''

Out of the pool, Wayne - a post office retiree - collects first-day covers of stamps and grows violets.

Both hobbies occupy prominent places in the house. In the living room and spare bedroom, his first-day covers fill the pigeonholes of two antique oak cases once used by letter carriers to sort mail.

The first-day covers share the bedroom with a stand of violets. Row after row, shelf upon shelf, the flowers with the thick emerald leaves and purple and white blossoms send their earthy aroma throughout the cottage.

Ginnie gardens. She marvels at her crop of gourds. One plant has become a tangle of leaves, corkscrew vines and knobby yellow-green fruit trailing across the pocket-sized backyard.

As she admires her gourds, she mourns for her tomatoes.

''The weather's been crazy this summer for the poor things,'' she frets. ''It's nearly Labor Day and we haven't picked one tomato.''

When they're not gardening and collecting, Ginnie and Wayne are active in their church. She's on the prayer chain. He runs a Bible study group. They volunteer at a nearby nursing home.

''We minister to the people who live there,'' Ginnie says. ''And, we always come away blessed. We get so much more than we can ever give.''

She stops to gaze at Wayne. Her face takes on a sweet, thoughtful look.

She admits their life is so busy ''we don't have time for any of the activities they have at Maple Knoll.''

''We get tired,'' Wayne jokes, ''just reading the schedule of events.''

Ginnie laughs as she does at all his jokes. Wayne gives her a sly smile and a wink.

They continue to count their blessings. Each one is important and enjoyable. But they realize, in this era of divorce and at an age where death ends many a marriage, no blessing can top this:

They have each other.

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Available to speak to groups. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax 768-8340.