Health & Medicine

Happy endings can take time

Although James and Jeanette Robinson did not have a fairy-tale romance, they nonetheless think their marriage will have a happy ending.

”I kept thinking this is puppy love,“ Jeanette ­Robinson, 75, said of her feelings for her new husband before their wedding in May. ”But it wasn't. It was a special love. It really was. He never ever was completely gone from my mind.“

That's a good thing, because it took the couple 60 years to finally get together.

James Robinson and ­Jeanette Baylous had their first date when he was 14 and she was 12, and they both lived in Parkersburg, W.Va.

Jeanette had noticed him before and was smitten but timid. She sent her twin ­sister, Jean, to investigate him while impersonating her.

He later invited the real Jeanette on a hayride.

”I didn't know anything about that,“ said Robinson, 77.

He also didn't know much about bringing his date back home on time, causing ­Jeanette's father to forbid her from seeing him again.

Although they remained friends and schoolmates, James didn't try to ask her out again until he returned from the Navy's boot camp.

By then, Jeanette was ­married, so he asked her twin.

”She answered the phone and said Jeanette was ­married, so I asked her out,“ Robinson said, laughing. ”We went out once.“

From that point on, the road to the fairy-tale ending became unbelievably twisted.

Jeanette married twice, for 31 years the first time and 20 the next. She moved to Lexington in 1996 from West Virginia with her ­second husband, James William Sandt, to care for her mother. Her mother died in 1999; her husband in 2000.

Meanwhile, James had been married three times to two women. His first and second marriages to the same woman lasted a combined 31 years. His second marriage had lasted 20 years when his wife died in 2003.

In 2005, James' son died. When Jeanette heard about it, she sent him a sympathy card.

”I send a lot of sympathy cards,“ Jeanette said. ”I never dreamed I would hear from him. I looked him up on the Internet.“

”It took her two months before she got the nerve to send the card,“ James said. ”I faintly remembered her.“

They began exchanging e-mails and phone numbers.

But there was a ­considerable roadblock.

James had married for a fourth time the year his son died, and they had moved to North Carolina.

Jeanette didn't know that. She hadn't noticed a wife listed for him in his son's obituary. She gave him ­permission to call, but only as friends, and they used e-mail to catch up.

”It was strictly ­friendship,“ James said. ”It wasn't a good marriage, but I was behaving myself. I had met her on the Internet.“

Still, Jeanette ­discovered James' old graduation ­picture, which her mother had kept, and she put it above her computer.

Then in January, his wife died. After a few days of helping his stepson get everything together, James packed his belongings and moved back to his home in Norfolk, Va.

On the way, James stopped in Lexington.

”He came to see me,“ ­Jeanette said. ”I knew it was not over after all those years.“

The couple talked and e-mailed often. On Valentine's Day, James warned her that he wouldn't call on Feb. 29, Leap Day.

On Leap Day, according to tradition, women are allowed to ask men to marry them.

”But he did call and I said, "I have a question I have to ask,'“ Jeanette said. ”I asked him to marry me, and he didn't really say yes or no. We just started making ­wedding plans.“

The couple were ­married May 24 in ­Parkersburg, where it all had started.

Jeanette moved from ­Lexington to Norfolk last week, and so far, so good.

”This is just right,“ James said. ”Everything is going to work out great. We have promised each other that we have to go to 140.“

”Life is very good,“ Jeanette said.

Their marriage is one reason fairy tales favor the tortoise instead of the hare.