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Never too old to grow

Otis and Fannie Fields had low expectations for their marriage—until they became Christians


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Never too old to grow

20TH IN A SERIES ON LONG MARRIAGES

Otis Fields met his future wife Fannie while working in the same office building as her near Houston, Texas. He noticed her good looks and would smile at her on the elevator. One Friday night in 1974, he asked Fannie out, and they went to a soul blues club downtown. Both enjoyed the date, but Fannie was unimpressed when Otis needed help getting downtown, then forgot where he parked.

Fannie told her roommate, “If I go out with him again, kick me.”

Yet as she got to know Otis, she found herself enjoying his kind manners and fun personality. They dated, got engaged, then married in October 1976.

But they had little understanding of the commitment necessary for marriage. Fannie remembers telling friends she could always get divorced if things didn’t work out. Otis didn’t know anyone who was faithful to his wife: He’d seen many failed marriages growing up, with relatives and siblings getting divorced. After marrying Fannie, he continued visiting nightclubs to drink and socialize with other women.

Fannie got frustrated when Otis told her how to handle money and bills: “I thought I was my own boss and could do what I wanted to and buy what I wanted to buy.” She was a working woman and thought the responsibilities in marriage should be split 50/50. The Fieldses had two daughters and grew closer in those early years, but they disagreed on spending and who should do household chores.

Ten years later, the couple moved to Austin. When a neighbor invited Fannie to Christ Memorial Baptist Church, she went, heard the gospel, and asked God to save her. Otis refused to go—until he realized he could make business contacts at the church. In the first sermon Otis heard, the pastor held up the Bible and said, “I’m just a man. I can let you down or lead you astray. If you know what’s in this book, no one can lead you astray.” Impressed, Otis determined to read the whole Bible, and soon he too heard the gospel and believed.

The Fieldses built friendships with other church members, and as they grew in their faith, their marriage began to change. Fannie learned she could appeal to Otis when she disagreed with him, but then “that’s the decision we’re going to make together, because he’s the leader.”

The gospel also helped them be patient with their different parenting styles. Fannie thought Otis was too harsh when he would announce on weekday mornings, “I’m leaving at 7:30, and whoever is ready for school can come with me.” Meanwhile, Otis became frustrated when Fannie repeatedly told the girls to clean their rooms and they ignored her. Over time, they learned to work together: Otis could make the girls clean their rooms, but Fannie could get them to take their medicine when Otis couldn’t.

Otis and Fannie have now been married 43 years. “Your marriage never gets too old to grow,” says Fannie, 69. Otis, 70, adds, “It’s primarily the little things now,” such as remembering to hold her hand when they go out and showing affection through touch instead of assuming Fannie knows he loves her.

The Fieldses still live in Austin and attend Christ Memorial. Their two married daughters live nearby, and they see their three grandchildren weekly.


Charissa Koh

Charissa is a WORLD reporter who often writes about poverty-fighting and criminal justice. She resides with her family in Atlanta.

@CharissaKoh

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