Story Time | Tommy & Janel

There are times in life when you step back and think, this is a special moment. I have had many moments like this in my life – performing at Carnegie Hall with Mannheim Steamroller, my first trip to Disney World, officiating my cousin Megan and her wife’s wedding. All remarkable moments in my life that will stay with me forever.

One memory that resonates is Thanksgiving 2013. I sat down with my grandfather and interviewed him about his life – meeting my grandmother, kids, his business, ups and downs….zero filter. Some stories I had heard a million times while others I had just discovered.

Don’t you wish they would have had iPhones back then! Every time I heard how they met; he would have to play the song String of Pearls. I remember once we were going to Abbeville, where he was born and raised, and after the song played he had a tear in his eye. That was the first time that I saw a man show emotion – like he gave permission for the rest of men to shed a tear and a smile when talking about the love of his life. I guess that’s where I get my sensitive side from.

They got married in July of 1955 between church services. Her parents could only afford to pay for her dress and his parents helped convince the priest that since he would already be at the church why not get these two kids hitched. After the service, his dad let him use the family car so they could go on their honeymoon to Houston. While there they traveled to Fort Hood where he was stationed and found a trailer. They returned the car, packed their bags and left. Papa’s dad gave him a 20 dollar bill and said: “Now don’t come home”.

While my Papa loved “living in the past” as my Granny would say, she couldn’t stand it. I never knew why. When I would ask her about it, she would tell me this story – I always felt a hint of romance hearing about their first trailer on the base.

That’s love!

As they moved along in life, they had four kids together. He established himself in Houma and started a pipe-threading company. One day Granny came home and said that she met this man who offered her a job. She was in Dupont’s looking at sewing machines and was talking to the other ladies from down the bayou in French. He was so impressed he hired her on the spot. She lasted one day. Come to find out as the little old ladies from down the bayou came in to get a sewing machine – she would tell them in French where they could get it for $10 cheaper! Poor Mr. Zerengue had no idea why she wasn’t selling until finally, she told him. This next clip is short, but sums up their entire 54 years of marriage:

Four daughters, five grandkids and five great-grandchildren later…here we are still here talking about their meet cute. There is one image that will forever be etched into my brain. I was eight years old and purchased yet another disposable camera. I snapped this picture of him – the man who taught me how to fight in the face of adversity, comfort in times of need, and love with every fiber of my being.

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