With each new passing of the calendar we’re reminded that we’re all getting older.
Our culture may prize youth and try to avoid aging, but I think that’s misguided. There’s great beauty in a love story that lasts decades. Growing old together is a wonderful goal.
I read this story a while back (it’s been taken down now so I can’t link it):
This week, in the Boston Globe, I read the story of an elderly couple named Sol and Rita Rogers. They’ve been married 61 years. They’ve raised a family and lived a long and happy life together. A few years ago, that began to change. Rita developed Alzheimer’s. And she is slipping deeper and deeper into dementia.
Several weeks ago, she was taken to a health care center, where she now has to live. The first few days, she screamed and talked incoherently. She could barely form words with her mouth. Most tragically, she could no longer recognize her husband. She had no idea who he was. This was agony for him. He would go home from visiting her, trembling with grief, overwhelmed by sadness.
One morning, he went into her room, and saw her lying there and had an idea – an idea, he said, that could only have come from God. Sol climbed into his wife’s tiny twin bed, and put his arms around her. And he just held her. He hugged her. He whispered to her. That’s all. But something happened. As he put it, “I got into bed with her and loved her and it lifted my depression.” And Rita was transformed, too.
She responded to his touch. And she began to talk. He now does it every day.
Rita’s doctor says that her “old memory” recalls being in his arms, remembers how he used to hold her, and part of her is able to come back. Now Sol spends a couple of hours of every day, just holding Rita, telling her he loves her, and she tells him she loves him. Just as they have for 61 years.
Isn’t that beautiful? I really pray that I have decades ahead with my husband. I just love him to pieces, and I’d be lost without him.
But as much as we glorify this kind of romantic love, let’s remember that it’s not a fluke.
Isn’t that profound? How many couples expect to coast in their marriage on those amazing feelings they have when they walk down the aisle, only to find that they disappear? I think that if we could just make an effort to love, with action, even when the feelings aren’t there, we might find that the feelings follow. And pretty soon the person becomes indispensable, such an intricate part of our lives we can’t imagine it without them.
Here’s another quotation I love, this time from Anne Tyler, from her book A Patchwork Planet:
I knew couples who’d been married almost forever — forty, fifty, sixty years. Seventy-two, in one case. They’d be tending each other’s illnesses, filling in each other’s faulty memories, dealing with the money troubles or the daughter’s suicide, or the grandson’s drug addiction. And I was beginning to suspect that it made no difference whether they’d married the right person. Finally, you’re just with who you’re with. You’ve signed on with her, put in a half century with her, grown to know her as well as you know yourself or even better, and she’s become the right person. Or the only person, might be more to the point. I wish someone had told me that earlier. I’d have hung on then; I swear I would.
There is something so beautiful about hanging on, about growing old together, about appreciating each other for decades.
I laugh at this charming video, but I tear up, too:
I tear up because I want to be like that. I want to still be flirting with my husband and laughing with him and having fun–even if I’m doing it in the atrium of a hospital, like this couple did.
So here’s a thought: You know how when people want to save money they put a picture of the house they want to buy or the vacation they want to take in their wallet, to discourage spending? Or when they want to lose weight they put a picture of themselves at their target weight, or that number, on the fridge, to discourage snacking?
Why not give yourself a goal–a picture of yourself after fifty or sixty years of marriage, if you are both blessed with that long a life. And work towards that goal of growing old together, still totally in love! Aim for it. Love him and build him up so that you’ll have it. When you’re tempted to hold a grudge or blow up at him, ask yourself, “what am I doing to the man that I want to hold on to when I’m 80?”
(I’m not saying ignore big problems; obviously one-size-fits-all marriage advice doesn’t exist, and if you’re in an abusive marriage, I’m not talking to you here).
I don’t know where you are in your marriage today, but I pray these little snippets give you hope. Stick it out for the long run; you’ll be amazed what will happen.
Do you have marriage advice you’d like to give? Thoughts on how to live that daily life with your hubby? Why not share it? Just copy the picture above by right-clicking it and saving it to your computer, and then go to your blog and write a post. Then come back here and enter the URL below. We’d love to read what you have to say!