One couple had grown up on adjoining farms. The other had met in school when she was in the 3rd grade and he was in the 1st. None ever had any other significant person in their lives; each couple had been together in marriage for over 50 years. Really, they had been together for their lifetimes.
In this world of divorce and disunion, it is hard to imagine such commitment, such simple and lasting love. I don’t even have the means to comprehend it: never to have had any doubt that you know who the right partner is, to grow up knowing that person will be with you throughout your entire life. It is a love that is the bedrock of what love is.
I have been privileged to meet such couples across Vermont over the years. They have not all been together for half a century nor grown up certain of the bound between them, but they have all made a go of marriage over the long haul, decades upon decades. Children raised, grandchildren loved, and then great-grandchildren added to that.
We have among us, in this time of such great turbulence, a source of greater stability and consistency. I refer to our parents, grandparents and neighbors. They have been through tougher times, endured greater sorrows, and remained steadfast in spite of more dire circumstances than we now face. Yet they have not only survived, they have prevailed. They have remained intact as couples.
Why do we not seek them out and ask their advice? How is it that we believe we are experiencing something new and different? What is it about today that makes us think it is more credible than yesterday? What makes us think things are more complicated than they ever were before?
When I visit with husbands and wives who have been together nearly as long, or longer, than I have been alive, I am stuck by how simple staying together seems to them. Succeeding in marriage is never a result of a choice of options; there never is or was any other option.
It is just the same for hanging onto their home, taking care of their kids and generally making their way through life. One did what must be done and did without whatever was not absolutely essential to that purpose. If one couldn’t afford a TV, one did without it. It was the same for new clothes, dinners out, new cars or anything else. What mattered was each other and family. It was that simple and they managed to make it work.
So, where am I going with this? I am not sure beyond the suggestion that the greatest resource we have to cope with the current crises is those individuals and couples who have managed the longest. By doing so, it is possible they have accomplished the most.
After all, Aging in Place doesn’t happen by accident.