SAN ANGELO, Texas — Jerry Jefferson just knew.
"I knew immediately that he was the one. I met Ross on summer vacation, at a Milky Way drive-in in New Mexico. A month and two days later we were married," she said.
Jerry looked through a folder of pictures from her and Ross' life together: an old church directory picture, a life-changing trip to Israel (Ross was baptized in the Jordan River), vacations spent with grandchildren, fishing trips, days spent in Hawaii (one of their favorite places to travel together, and trips to Norman, Okla. - Ross is a big OU fan.
A whole folder of pictures, but only a glimpse into 65 years of marriage.
"He's just...good...you know? He's just special," Jerry said.
Jerry and Ross have lived in San Angelo for 24 years. Before retirement and a move into Baptist Retirement Community, Jerry worked as a secretary and Ross served as a supervisor in the oil business. You know, when they weren't busy honeymooning in Hawaii or taking their children to a Disney park. Their marriage doesn't just boast quantity, it's overflowing in quality.
A lot has changed since Ross was baptized in the Jordan and he and then-22-year-old Jerry took their church directory picture.
Four years ago is when Jerry started noticing the little changes.
"He loved to play golf...and one day, he just quit. He asked his friends to stop keeping score. I think it was because he was having a hard time keeping up," she said.
In Jerry's mind, though, there was no way. There was no way this could be happening to her again.
"My dad had Alzheimer's. I thought that, because I went through it with him, it would never happen to me again," she said.
Ross was diagnosed with Alzheimer's four years ago.
"One of the first things he said was, 'why can't I remember anything anymore?'" Jerry recalled. "Then he said, 'well, I guess when you get old, you just quit remembering.' He never really said it by name," she said.
Inevitably, the past four years have brought a lot of change, and a lot of pain.
"I miss him. I really miss him, very much. More than I could have dreamed," a teary-eyed Jerry said.
Sometimes, though, it's as though nothing has changed at all.
"Every day when I leave, he always tells me to be careful. He doesn't know where I live anymore, but he tells me to be careful every time. He is the most caring, considerate person I know," Jerry said.
Jerry walked into SageCrest - the memory care facility at Baptist Retirement where Ross stays. From all the way across the room, Ross lifted his head up. He didn't need a perfect memory to know who just walked through the door.
Ross and Jerry talked about lunch. They talked about Ross's next haircut and if the weather outside was walking appropriately. Ross talked about today's work in the oil field. It didn't happen, of course, but Jerry let him think it did.
Jerry got up to go, and Ross stopped her.
"I'll be back soon, Ross," Jerry said.
"No, honey, you better be back real soon. And you be careful okay. You be really careful," Ross said.