A week ago we were invited to the cottage of our summer neighbors to have dinner with them and another couple to celebrate the end of another season. We had toasted our host’s 55th wedding anniversary, appropriately enough on a Martini Friday, just a few days earlier on their deck overlooking the lake where her mother had owned a small hotel when Carolyn was young. Dennis grew up on the gritty side of Toronto but made his way to New England in his teens. The other couple were Barbara and Wayne, both of whom had lost their first spouses to cancer years ago. Although they had both lived much of their adult life in a small community about an hour from the lake, they had little personal interaction until they ran into each other at a UMaine hockey game about 8 years ago. Their first date was for dinner at Barbara’s house where she invited us as well. Having been out of the dating scene for more than 40 years, I suppose it brought her a measure of comfort to have us there. They have been pretty much inseparable ever since, living alternately at her house, his house, and a condo they bought a few years ago in Fort Myers so they could spend their winters in Florida. Don and I are the newcomers to Maine. We moved here almost 10 years ago from California after we retired. In our 60s, we are the youngest and have been married for 33 years and living together for 35.
In spite of our different life stories and background, the one thing that we do have in common is that we all seem to be more content, relaxed, and genuinely happy, because we have a life partner who loves us. Having a spouse who not only loves you but also cares about you and makes a concerted effort to be an equal partner in the relationship really helps to smooth out the rough patches that couple will inevitably face as they go through life’s ups and downs. Don was my first (and only) true love. I didn’t date a lot before I met him and didn’t really have a clear idea of what it meant to be in a relationship. Although we were initially attracted to one another because there were important core beliefs that we shared like faith, love of the outdoors, financial stability, and strength of character, I also thought like we had to share all of each others interests. For example, he enjoyed backpacking, bird watching and astronomy which didn’t seem to match up with my love of skiing, playing softball, and car camping. But over time we learned to compromise on some and combine others and discovered that because we cared so much about each other it was a small concession. That’s not to say that we no longer have separate interests, but that we have learned that those separate interests (and talents) can make for a richer life experience.
Through our many years together our focus has been to support each others talents and interests, accept that we have different strengths and skills, and take a shared responsibility for the daily demands of life. We have become comfortable with taking on specific chores. For me that includes making dinner, doing laundry, mowing the lawns, washing the cars and walking the dog. Don takes care of preparing lunch, doing the dishes, planting and tending the kitchen garden, vacuuming the house, and feeding the dog. Just as importantly, we continue to share some of our most important activities. We support each other in our thrice weekly workouts, going to the fitness center together while completing our cardio and strength separately. We insure that we keep healthy by scheduling regular medical and dental appointments. We make time to travel together, hike and take day trips. And we share a faith in God and attend Mass weekly. In spite of our differences, or perhaps because of them, we are definitely better together than we would be alone. I feel blessed, but also feel a profound sense of responsibility and I take that very seriously.