By Peggy Nelson
There were moments in our nearly twenty years together when I would fall far short of Byron’s or even my own standards of patience, perseverance, and several other virtues. When I would wonder aloud to him about how he managed to put up with me, or what he saw in me in the first place, he would sometimes say, “I saw what you could be.” Isn’t that amazing? He had such a gift for not only seeing the best in people but helping them, often in some unspoken way, to bring it out, and to become better people just because they had been around him, even for a little while. You’re beginning to see, I think, why I have always felt that I’m an extraordinarily blessed woman.
One of the most wonderful signs of Byron’s love was something he did for our second anniversary. Unbeknownst to me he had gone out to Preston Trail where there was a display of some of his medals and other small mementos and asked if he could replace the 1937 Masters Gold Medal with another one he had. They cooperated, fortunately, and he then took that precious piece of history to our jeweler and had it made into a beautiful pendant and gave it to me. It truly brought tears to my eyes, because I knew that was the most important tournament in his career to him, so I understood how much it signified of not only his love for me but also his trust that I could prove worthy of such a gift.
You may wonder what our days and weeks and months and years together were like. We quickly developed a comfortable pattern of normalcy. When we were at home, we had breakfast together, and then Byron would do the dishes and go out to his shop for some woodworking. He would come in later for lunch, then go back to the shop or maybe to play golf with friends in Dallas or Fort Worth. We typically had a fairly early dinner and relaxed in the evenings together. At first I remember Byron had been so used to going to bed early while Louise was ill that he thought 9:30 was about the right time to go to sleep. But he had also been used to getting up at 5:30 or 6 to take care of Louise. Fortunately, we were soon able to change that schedule by a couple of hours.
Soon after we celebrated our first one-month anniversary, Byron announced his next goal was to make it to one hundred months, which we gleefully celebrated with an elegant dinner at the Four Seasons. The monthly anniversaries continued until we got to ten years, then he wanted to get to two hundred months, which we did. Each month was sweeter than the one before, until finally, just eleven days before he went to heaven, we celebrated number 238 at the Olive Garden, another of our favorite restaurants. How we delighted in each other!
When we were driving to Dallas, Fort Worth, Kerrville or wherever, we held hands. Byron’s were always so warm, and of course, if you ever got to shake hands with him, you knew his hands were really big. In fact, when we were first married, his grip on mine as we drove along would slowly, gradually, get tighter and tighter until I would need to shake mine a little bit to restore the circulation. One time when I did that, he apologized and said, “I guess I’m trying to make sure you’re not going to go back to Ohio.” Fat chance.
As everyone who knew Byron well would agree, he was a born encourager. He found ways to express his appreciation and enjoyment of others and did so at every opportunity. Above the other compliments from him, my very favorite was when he would say, “When you look at me, your eyes sparkle and dance!” It said so much about the feeling that flowed between the two of us. He really did light up my life so beautifully that it was the most natural thing in the world to reflect that light right back to him. I always had the same reaction when we had been separated even for as little as an hour at church, if I was helping with a children’s class while he was in the adult Bible study. When I would catch sight of him again, my heart would beat faster, and I’d say to myself,There he is!
We had so many pet names for each other that some folks might find it a bit silly, but we enjoyed and used every single one: Honeypot, Queen of All Queens, Sleeping Tiger, Adorable Darling, Angeldoll, Cuddlebear, and the like. And of course, on a more formal note, we occasionally addressed each other as Mr. Nelson and Mrs. Nelson just for the sheer joyful fun of it.
I felt so secure, so completely cherished and appreciated in every way with Byron. His praise of my every little accomplishment, or sometimes just the way I walked, was unceasing. It occurred to me that, if we could only hear what God is saying to us, it would be like that, too—constant praise and gentle guidance when we needed it. Or occasionally it might be a stronger no when a temptation gets a little too strong for us to handle by ourselves.
Excerpt taken with permission from Life with Lord Byron: Laughter, Romance and Lessons Learned From Golf’s Greatest Gentleman by Peggy Nelson (2010) available at: www.byronnelson-golfpro.com