Sixty Plus years of Incompatibility

Posted by on January 18, 2008 in Musings | 0 comments

Would you describe a marriage of 66 years as one, which exemplifies “compatibility”? I would guess that most people when presented with this question would, without hesitation, respond with a resounding, “of course”! And, in most situations, this response would be accurate. But, I have encountered, and in a very personal, intimate way, an opposite opinion to the above question; the compatibility of such a lengthy union. This personal situation happens to exist in my own family. The couple that I am referring to happens to be MY parents! -
My sisters and I have often shared a desire to write our parent’s story. Desiring to do so is the easy part, actually sitting down and writing is the hard part. My parents, do, indeed, have a love story transcending many decades. Their story may be very similar to the story of your parents. I am guessing that if you are reading 50PlusSt.Louis(a good read!) that you may very well have parents such as mine or be a couple like my parents: young teens who married during the years of World War 11 with little to no worldly goods or life experiences. Their wealth was in their relationship.
During those years of war, many young couples married right out of high school, or not, like my mother and dad. My dad had been orphaned by the age of 11. His school years were erratic and unfinished. Fortunately, a caring, kind, couple came to his rescue. He lived with this couple and their two sons until his enlistment in the Navy at the age of 18. My mother, the only girl in a family of 8 children, was two months short of finishing high school. The end of her senior year was interrupted with the introduction of a cocky, yet charming, sensitive young man. Less than two months later, they eloped, literally, with only the clothes on their back –no thought of the future, only the moment. The refrain from the disco song, “Love Will Keep Us Together” could have been written for them. Three weeks later, the young, new husband was overseas.
The next two decades brought frequent moves, frequent separations and three children. Every three years, my dad would serve a long nine months onboard a ship in the Pacific. The term “single” mom applied decades ago to military wives who stayed behind to maintain their households while their man was away. As difficult as it was when dad was away, the adjustment of having him home again after a nine-month absence, created its own trials and tribulations. The man of the house was back in his castle, and ready to rule! Mother had been a little less strict about everyday routines; a military dad was not. I was a “mature” adult before I came to an understanding of how trying those years were for all of us.
With all this history, how surprising how shocking was the following scenario:
My husband and I traveled to my parent’s home in southern Missouri to celebrate their 66th anniversary. As we sat there, eating breakfast, my feisty little Irish dad, looked up from his plate of eggs to make an unexpected, emotionless comment, “You know we really are incompatible”! My husband, mother and myself were speechless. How could you respond to such an unsuspected revelation? What prompted such a statement of fact?
Finally, gaining my thought processes back, I responded, “ well, you know what, dad, my sisters and I are just too old to be the children of divorced parents. So you are just going to have to stick it out”!
Since that day, another year has been added to the accumulated years. The count is now 67 years, and children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are all hoping for 68, and how wonderful, would a 75th anniversary be? Many times I have shared my dad’s comment, getting the laugh that I anticipated. I mean it is a bit of an oxymoron considering their vast number of years together. But, I also muse about the longevity of these two, my parents who are so very different in their interests, in socialization, opinions, and even, their worldview. Considering how our society views what is a “happily married couple” in today’s world, they probably would not be celebrating all these anniversaries. My sisters and I, children of divorce! I attribute much of the enduring marriage of my parents to the era they share, an era that stressed commitment; respect, loyalty, and when they repeated the vows of “until death do we part”, it was a for real promise.
So, back to the earlier question: is it incompatibility or not? Whatever it is, it has worked for them.

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