Shinn column: Dan and Wanda Ennis are fighting cancer together
By Susan Shinn
FAITH ó Wanda and Dan Ennis enjoy sitting out in their sunroom in the evenings, watching the birds eat at the myriad feeders in the backyard.
This month, they’ll celebrate their third anniversary. It only took Wanda 43 years to say yes.
Wanda and Dan were high school sweethearts. He asked her to marry him back then.
But she wasn’t ready.
So they went their separate ways. Dan, who’s 68, married and had three children. Wanda, who’s 64, worked full-time and took care of her parents. She is the 12th of 15 children.
Dan and his first wife had a good marriage, he says, but he never forgot Wanda. They’d each kept letters they’d written to one another.
After Dan’s wife died in 2004, he went out a couple of times, but it didn’t pan out, he says.
“One evening I was sitting at the house ó I hated to be alone. It’s hell. Of all things, I picked up the phone book and I looking at the last names.”
Dan, who has an interest in genealogy, came to the Siffords. Near the end of the list, he saw Wanda’s name.
It couldn’t be, he thought to himself. Not after 43 years.
“She was the cutest little redhead,” he remembers.
After a few minutes, he got up the nerve and dialed her number and left a message. When he called back later that evening, Wanda had figured out who it was.
Dan invited her out to eat, but Wanda thought they should talk on the phone and get to know each other better.
This went on for about three days.
Finally, Dan called her at work and said, “I have to see you.”
He knew, he says. She was the one he wanted.
When Dan came to the door, Wanda’s first thought was, “Oh Lord, he’s an old man!”
“I still envisioned him at 21 or 22,” Wanda says. “But it was just like we were 16 again.”
Dan brought her flowers.
They talked some more and realized how much they had in common.
“We don’t see this all as happenstance,” Dan says. “Unbeknownst to us, God knew we both had a real need for somebody.”
“I’d been praying to the good Lord for sometime after my mother died,” Wanda says. “I wanted someone to love me to the depths of what I would love them.”
Before long, Wanda realized that’s what she had in Dan.
Dan, who retired on disability, would come over and have supper ready when Wanda got off work. Then he’d start to leave about 10 p.m. ó Wanda had to be at her hospital job the next day.
“We’d make out at the door,” Wanda admits.
They started going out in May 2005. Two months later, Dan again asked Wanda to marry him one Friday night.
Again, Wanda said she didn’t think the time was right.
Dan said he’d wait.
The next morning, Dan came over for breakfast.
“We were standing in the kitchen,” Dan says, “and she said, ‘Let’s get married!’
“I was floored.”
But they stood right there in the kitchen and started making plans.
Wanda’s parents’ anniversary was Aug. 13, and Wanda decided she wanted to get married then ó just a few weeks away.
They called Wanda’s pastor and asked him to marry them.
You mean THIS Aug. 13?
“I can’t believe I had all this nerve,” Wanda says.
Wanda then called a sister-in-law who directs weddings.
“I’ll be right over,” she said.
Wanda and Dan married that pretty summer afternoon, surrounded by friends and family.
A few weeks later, on Sept. 19, 2005, Dan had surgery for colorectal cancer.
“If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be here,” Dan says firmly.
Two months ago, Wanda had a heart attack. Tests revealed a rare lung cancer that strikes female non-smokers.
Wanda is in the midst of treatment.
“I think it’s going good,” she says.
It may not be the way many people want to start a marriage, but it’s OK with Dan and Wanda.
“I have always believed pastors should explain that those marriage vows are between you two and God,” Dan says. “You are making some lifelong commitments. It’s not all the sweet stuff. It covers the valleys as well as the mountains.
“Going through these valleys makes you stronger and your love for each other infinitely stronger.”
Dan and Wanda will hold on to that knowledge and to each other every evening.
Whether they’re watching the birds or watching television, they’re holding hands, sitting side by side.