Liz and Jack Grimes first met in junior high school, but it wasn’t until several years later when Liz was a junior and Jack a senior at Smith High School that the two discovered an unmistakable chemistry.

“We had lunch together most days, and we spent our time arguing about politics and religion,” Jack says with a laugh.

But at the time, they both were in relationships with other people. That summer, though, they both found themselves single and finally went on their first date at a drive-in movie.

“And we just started seeing each other very regularly,” says Liz. “Our agreement was we were not going to get serious—we were dating on the rebound just to get over the rough spot. Forty-seven years later, periodically we’ll look at one another and say, ‘Have we gotten serious yet?’”

The Grimes married in 1972, and in the nearly five decades since, they’ve weathered a number of storms and devoted their lives to bringing joy to others.

After taking the first few years of their marriage to just enjoy being a couple, the pair began trying for their first child. But it soon became clear that getting pregnant just wasn’t in the cards, so they opted to foster and adopt children.

Over the years, the Grimes have fostered an astounding 64 children. One of those children came back to live with them permanently, and the couple also permanently adopted four other children, including a baby boy with HIV. With their brood of five, along with regular fosters, the couple certainly had their hands full—and that’s when something completely unexpected happened.

“At 40 years old I got pregnant for the first time in my life,” says Liz. “We had five kids, and at the time of the baby’s birth, our oldest was 20.”

As they had so many times before, Liz and Jack rolled with it and helped each other navigate this new chapter. They did the same a few years later when their son Robbie died from complications of HIV at age 17.

“He was 8 when the baby was born, and the fact that he was going to be a big brother changed his health,” says Liz. “He was excited by the possibility of being able to teach the baby things. He gave us so many gifts, and he made such a difference in the world.”

In 2012, with their own children grown, the Grimes decided it was time to retire from foster parenting.

But though they weren’t actively coparenting each day, they still worked as a team in several endeavors outside their home. Liz and Jack both serve as wedding officiants and relationship counselors, and they also appear at local holiday events as Santa and Mrs. Claus during the Christmas season.

“We’re gluttons for punishment in that we work together all the time,” Jack jokes. “We’ve been business partners as well as life partners.”

For some, that much togetherness for so many years could be a bit too much. But Liz and Jack say the key is to always remember that even though you’re part of a team, you’re also still an individual.

“We allow each other to be our own person,” says Jack. “We both have common interests and we both have divergent interests. We don’t smother each other, but we’re also there when the other needs us—when we need support, need help, need passion. We’re friends first and lovers second, and it’s been that way our whole marriage.”

That philosophy has served them well over the years, and it has helped them overcome the obstacles in life and build the sort of relationship that allows them to still enjoy being together all these years after that first drive-in movie date. They both readily admit it hasn’t always been easy, but it has definitely been worth it.

“We went through a period that was really dark and difficult,” says Liz. “And people would say, ‘Why are you still here?’ And I would say, ‘Because I know the two people who fell in love are still there. We have to wait for them to reemerge—and they will—and I want the two of us there waiting for them.’ And we did.”

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